Cricket: Man in the Middle: Double life for happy doctor: Justin Vaughan

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The Independent Online
ALMOST a generation after Glenn Turner, John Wright and Sir Richard Hadlee entered county cricket a modest Kiwi invasion is taking place. In a Test-playing country where cricket is very much a part-time occupation to be fitted around a 'proper' job, a core of New Zealand's younger players are gaining intensive experience on the circuit.

At Old Trafford, Danny Morrison has been tackling the unenviable task of filling Wasim Akram's boots. Over at Trent Bridge, Chris Cairns has survived the controversy of replacing Franklyn Stephenson as Nottinghamshire's overseas player. And down at Bristol, Justin Vaughan has been contributing to an improved Gloucestershire side.

Justin who? To the confusion of visiting spectators and journalists alike, the all-rounder Vaughan is one of those who seemed too late for his biography to be included in Playfair. But, with Courtney Walsh in the side, the first assumption we can make is that he is one of us after all.

'That's right. I was born in Hereford, but we moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. I've played first-class cricket in Auckland for the past two seasons. And when England came over last winter I got three games against them for Auckland, the Emerging Team and an Invitation XI.

'I've got Jack Russell to thank for being over here. When he found out that I was English-born he told Gloucester about me. The guys like John Wright who'd played over here advised me to go for it.'

This has meant laying aside the stethoscope and the dreaded polythene gloves at 24 - Vaughan has been practising as a houseman in Auckland for a year. As with all New Zealanders, he needs a sympathetic employer. 'The hospital's been pretty good about it. You can take off three-month periods and keep your job. The cricket season means being allowed to take two periods run together.'

Vaughan has come within an inch of losing his English status - in the first of the one-day internationals against England last winter he was named as 12th man. 'Once I set foot on the field for New Zealand I become an overseas player. So I'm in a bit of a cleft stick at the moment, because I'm enjoying my season with Gloucester so much. But in the end, I guess, international cricket is what everyone strives for.'

It may well prove in time, of course, that a man already whispered of as a potential Kiwi captain of the future may be competing for an overseas slot in seasons to come. Gloucester make full use of his upright, brisk bowling, though they usually ask him to bat below his natural position. 'Well, I can't complain. They've got plenty of youngsters to whom the club owes allegiance. And it does mean I can pick up the not-outs.'

As a young player who has seen the game in both countries, Vaughan is in a good position to observe the unique characteristics of county cricket.

'It's a profession here. I still treat it as a game. Enjoy it, don't let it get too serious. But for these guys it is a living. At home you get psyched up for the big games; here you can be on the go for 25 days without a break. Even though I couldn't do it for ever, it's a fantastic experience coming up against the best in the world every day of the week. Because of that you learn very quickly in county cricket.'

The surrounding noise as we talked belied any impression that Vaughan is a happy-go-lucky sportsman surrounded by dour professionals. 'Yes, we've just won. Everyone is feeling pretty good at the moment.' This fifth Championship win, against Northamptonshire, moved Gloucestershire into the top half of the table. Vaughan's contributions included top-scoring in the first innings for a cruel 99 and two cheap wickets during the last afternoon.

In a busy autumn and winter New Zealand will face Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia. What one memory will Vaughan take back with him? 'Listen. I've opened the bowling at Lord's with Courtney Walsh. And I got Dessie Haynes out. That'll do for me.'

(Photograph omitted)

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