One topic above all continues to dominate the early season. It has been fuelled by scores of 0 and 6 and if the flames are not yet engulfing Andrew Strauss, only one repellent on earth can extinguish them. He needs a Test hundred and he needs one smartish.
His two failures for Middlesex against Durham at Lord's last week added to the pressure. He faced 27 balls and was twice bowled by Graham Onions. Michael Vaughan knows what Strauss is going through.
Four years ago, Vaughan was captain of England, struggling for runs. His batting average was heading south and his side had recently lost series against India and Sri Lanka. "With every failure it gets harder," Vaughan said. "His feet are moving all right and his game is in good order, but when you're out of form you think about the one thing that can go wrong."
In 2008, Vaughan came back from a dreadful tour of New Zealand out of form and out of luck. Just like Strauss. "For a player of his experience and his age, another net is not going to solve the problem," said Vaughan. "Neither is runs for his county. He just has to score runs come 17 May and the first Test [against the West Indies], and I do think he will."
Vaughan was at Lord's last week for Middlesex's match and remains perplexed at Strauss's appearance: "I really don't read anything into his failures in that game at all, I don't think he should have been playing."
But he backs Strauss to thrive at the same venue in next month's Test. "If there was one ground he wants to go to needing a hundred it is Lord's. He'll arrive there and think, 'This is my ground', he's up against a West Indies attack that he would fancy. But I would say he'll need some ugly runs first."
Vaughan made his ugly ton at Lord's against New Zealand in 2008 but it was a temporary reprieve. Five Tests later he resigned. Strauss wants to continue but he will be aware of the history.
Michael Vaughan supports the NatWest Locals v Legends T20 series, a nationwide campaign giving NatWest CricketForce Fundraiser-registered clubs the chance to take on Vaughan's NatWest Legends XI this August. Natwest.com/cricketReuse content