A dead rubber in Sharjah? “Not for me,” said James Vince, which is hardly surprising since England’s last game of this tour could be only his fourth international match and one of those – in Ireland – was a wash-out. It is all very exciting for Vince at the moment.
England have already won the T20 series against Pakistan after their two victories in Dubai and most of the team will be flying home after their final game in Sharjah. However, Vince, Sam Billings, Reece Topley and Stephen Parry are staying on to play for the England Lions, who have five T20 matches against Pakistan A throughout the first three weeks of December.
Vince will be leading that team having gained some experience captaining Hampshire last summer. This might explain why he did not say too much to new skipper, Jos Buttler, in the last game on Friday. “I know what it’s like to take over as captain when everyone keeps rushing up to you with suggestions.”
Vince has acquitted himself well in his two matches here, scoring 41 and 38. He has been calm in alien conditions, hitting the ball crisply through the off side in a manner that justified all those comparisons with Michael Vaughan early in his career (although he does not seem to tweet quite so frequently).
The 24-year-old remains an option in England’s top three – he opens regularly for Hampshire in T20 cricket. It may well be that he will take on that role in Sharjah though it is becoming increasingly difficult on this tour to predict how England will juggle their personnel.
For all the recent talk of specialisation Vince is another young player eager to play in all formats for England and who can blame him? However, his route to Test cricket will have to be the increasingly common, modern one which begins against a white ball rather than a red or pink one. This is the pathway of David Warner, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales.
England prepared for their final match vigorously albeit with an earnest game of football at the ICC Academy in Dubai rather than trekking down to Sharjah for some dodgy nets. It is hard to escape the impression this is a young squad enjoying each other’s company as well as a little cricketing success, which is just as well since the three-format men in this group (Joe Root, Buttler, Moeen Ali, plus the newcomers Hales, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan) will have less than a fortnight back at home before setting off for South Africa for the Test series.
An interested spectator at the Academy was Steven Finn, who is back here to rehabilitate after his foot injury. He was not selected for the Test tour but he is now able to begin bowling again. It is still possible Finn could be added to the party at a later date if the recuperation goes well.
For now the focus is upon finishing the T20 series with a flourish in Sharjah after two sell-out fixtures in Dubai. Run-scoring is likely to be trickier there on a surface where the ball grips readily.
This team does not appear to need much motivation to bust a gut to win. Even so the management may just mention that a victory in Sharjah would catapult England from 8th in the ICC T20 rankings to 4th. Mop up those spilt cornflakes now.