Ashes hopes raised by invigorated Vaughan

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The Independent Online

The Australians undoubtedly bring the best out of Michael Vaughan. Since making those three big hundreds in England's last Ashes series in Australia, in 2002-03, Vaughan has taken over the captaincy, and only in brief glimpses has he again looked such an impressive player as he had done then. In one-day cricket his form has been particularly enigmatic.

The Australians undoubtedly bring the best out of Michael Vaughan. Since making those three big hundreds in England's last Ashes series in Australia, in 2002-03, Vaughan has taken over the captaincy, and only in brief glimpses has he again looked such an impressive player as he had done then. In one-day cricket his form has been particularly enigmatic.

It has been as if he has not fully understood his role as a batsman in this form of the game at the same time as not trusting his enormous talents. This was all perfectly summed up by the ghastly stroke he played against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl when he moved right across his stumps and was bowled round his legs when his middle stump was knocked out of the ground.

Now, at Edgbaston, he first made the excellent decision to trust his own off-spin bowling when he saw that the Australians were finding it difficult to score runs when the pace was taken off the ball. For only the second time he bowled his full compliment of 10 overs in a one-day international and finished with 2 for 42. It was a fine piece of bowling, and one hoped that it had helped his confidence and would overflow into his batting.

Vaughan at first looked a bag of nerves with the bat. He consistently flirted with danger outside the off stump and was lucky not to get a touch as he drove and flashed at Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie.

Then Brett Lee took over from McGrath. A lovely half-volley on Vaughan's legs was hit with nonchalant ease to the midwicket boundary. That stroke acted on Vaughan like a tablespoon of strengthening tonic. Later in the over, Lee bowled another on a good length just outside the off stump. Vaughan came forward and threw his bat into the stroke, hitting the ball on the up to the cover boundary. It was breathtaking.

In Lee's next over, Vaughan found the boundary four times. First, he went on to the back foot and drove excitingly through the covers. The short ball that followed was pulled with a satisfying finality to midwicket. Vaughan now lent into a classic cover drive that split the offside field, and then came another back-foot drive through the covers. The Australians, who had suffered this two years ago Down Under, were all too well aware of what was happening. On the other hand, Englishmen who had just begun to doubt their captain breathed sighs of relief.

Vaughan reached his 50 with a delicate late cut off Andrew Symonds and stayed on to play one more peerless cover drive, this time off McGrath. He had reached his highest ever one-day international score when he top-edged a hook, but by then England were almost home, next year's Ashes series had been given the most tremendous boost and Vaughan was back in good cricketing health.

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