James Vince primed for England call but where he will bat remains in question

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James Vince is set to make his Test debut at Headingley next week, but his position in England's batting order has yet to be clarified.

Vince has done enough in the early stages of this summer's Specsavers County Championship to persuade selectors he has the steel, as well as the flair, to be a Test batsman.

Following the sad early retirement of James Taylor because of a heart condition, Vince is expected to add a maiden Test cap against Sri Lanka to the four he won in Twenty20s last winter and his solitary one-day international appearance in last May's near washout in Dublin.

The 25-year-old Hampshire captain has long been identified as a talented stroke-maker who could have the natural ability to fare even better in international cricket than he has with an average in the low 40s to date for his county.

In his hard-earned century against Yorkshire's dual championship-winning attack at Headingley last month, he also demonstrated - in front of a clearly impressed national selector James Whitaker - that he had the patience and defensive technique required for the highest level.

The potential complication for Vince, however, is that England start their Test summer not only in need of a new number five but uncertain perhaps too about who should bat at number three.

Despite their admirable 2-1 series win in South Africa, there were already mutterings from captain Alastair Cook - before Taylor was taken ill - that collective improvement was needed from a batting order which has relied heavily on either him, Joe Root or runs much further down the list from all-rounder Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.

Nick Compton's second stab at Test cricket became less convincing by the match, after he began well in South Africa, and he has not hit sufficient runs yet this summer to dispel the doubts.

Should Compton not make it back to Leeds, scene of his last Test innings before a two-year hiatus in his international career, England's alternatives also bring their own imponderables.

Gary Ballance has failed, according to some, to address the apparent technical issues he encountered before being dropped in last summer's Ashes - and although veteran Ian Bell has been in top form in search of a recall, England will be wary of taking a gamble that his untimely hamstring niggle does not compromise him over five days.

Should the selectors decide against any of those three options, previously tried and variously dispatched, Vince could yet be pushed up to number three - the position to which he has become accustomed for his county.

It is unlikely England will disturb, yet, the latest opening partnership - with incumbent Alex Hales set to at least begin the summer alongside Cook after his mixed fortunes in South Africa.

Coach Trevor Bayliss and his management team also appear to have concluded the time is not right to risk upsetting the linchpin form of Root by asking him to move from number four.

Number five is therefore by far Vince's most obvious assignment, while Tom Westley's early-season success - including a century against the tourists at Chelmsford this week - makes him no more than an outside possibility to fulfil whichever role his England Lions captain does not.

England supporters will need to be up early for confirmation of Vince's Test arrival, and in what guise, with a near dawn announcement on Thursday morning of a probable 12-man squad at 7am.

There will be less intrigue further down the order for the early risers, in a team that still largely picks itself.

As well as one enforced change among the batsmen from England's defeat at Centurion in January, possibly a second depending on the faith retained in Compton, Steven Finn is expected to be back as third seamer in place of Chris Woakes - who would be unlucky to lose his place in a 12 to a newcomer such as Jake Ball or a fit-again Liam Plunkett.

Possible England Test squad (v Sri Lanka at Headingley): AN Cook (Captain), AD Hales, NRD Compton, JE Root, JM Vince, BA Stokes, JM Bairstow (wkt), MM Ali, SCJ Broad, ST Finn, JM Anderson, CR Woakes

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