Vince takes the bait again in another maddening Ashes knock.
By Ali Martin, Guardian News & Media Ltd
Sydney: Sitting directly opposite the Members' Pavilion at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in the lower tier of the Victor Trumper Stand where the hill once was, is a statue of Stephen "Yabba" Gascoigne - a legendary local rabbitoh who for 40 years until his death in 1942 would pitch up for matches here and deliver cutting remarks from the boundary's edge.
During the Bodyline series of 1932-33, Douglas Jardine was told to stop swatting away flies because "they are your only friends here", while on another occasion, frustrated by a batsman's inability, Yabba instructed the bowler to send down "a grand piano and see if he can play that instead". Immortalised in bronze in early 2008, he still sits there on the front row with his hand to his mouth getting stuck in; a nod to the grand old Australian tradition of barracking.
One wonders what Yabba would have come up with for James Vince, a touring batsman with the inbuilt capacity to both delight and infuriate in equal measure, and never more so than on the opening day of this fifth Ashes Test. For 82 minutes at the crease Vince looked the part as he so often does, dispatching the bad balls like Jardine versus the local insect population en route to a 25 that can be added to the list of magnificent yet maddening innings.
His first boundary, after a watchful start of 26 balls, could not have been sweeter as a Mitchell Starc half-volley was thrashed to the boundary. The left-armer, on his return to the side after a heel injury and a little down on pace from the first three Tests, was taken for a couple more in the next five minutes - both uppish but still murdered - while Pat Cummins, a bowler wonderfully defying all pre-series predictions about his fragility, was deliciously pulled in front of square.
Much of Vince's Ashes report comes down to what might have been in Brisbane, when on 83 he called for a suicidal single.
But in the first over after the second of two drinks breaks during the three-hour opening session came the rub, as a Cummins ball pushing 90mph on the speedgun was meekly feathered through to Tim Paine behind the stumps. It was the widest delivery Vince had received - the cut shot was fully justified - and yet it just felt such a predictably tepid demise.
Yabba, watching on from third man, would have had the perfect view of this latest Vince nick - the 11th of his 16 dismissals to seamers at Test level to be caught between keeper and gully - and likely offered up a word or two to the No3. Perhaps he would have sledged him about immediately breaking a new year's resolution to refocus after stoppages in play, given it was not the first time this series such a dismissal has occurred.
Much of Vince's Ashes report comes down to what might have been in Brisbane, when on 83 he dropped one into the covers and called for what proved a suicidal single. Since then there has been only one half-century - a promising 55 in Perth, ended when Starc gave him the biggest crack problem since New York in the 1980s - but had a century come on the opening day of this campaign, who knows what it might have done for the 26-year-old's confidence.
England's selectors choose their party for the New Zealand tour during this Test match before announcing it on January 10 and must decide whether 12 Tests of investment in Vince merits further time or one of the young Lions batsmen Trevor Bayliss is keen to look at - Liam Livingstone, Joe Clarke or Dan Lawrence - is worth a look-in, perhaps with the impressive Dawid Malan heading north in the order if Joe Root still won't budge.
The debate might also extend to Mark Stoneman if there were not fewer alternatives following some five years searching for an opening partner for Alastair Cook. His innings here was Vince-like - 24 from 24 balls with four glorious boundaries and a tame nick behind - and his series has been too, with two promising half-centuries for an average in the unsubstantial upper twenties.
While both batsmen will likely make the cut, with one innings of their respective tours to go they could still do with producing something to shout about.
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