Captain leads from the front as Australia look like old England

England 341-5 - Australia
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The Independent Online

But Vaughan has always had a penchant for Australian bowling and yesterday, on the first day of the third Ashes Test, they once again brought out the best in him. Vaughan's wonderful innings of 166, the 15th hundred of his Test career and his fourth against Australia, was a performance of great significance - it had to be to overshadow Shane Warne becoming the first bowler to take 600 Test wickets.

Vaughan's batting was the principal reason why England were able to compile 341 for 5, a total which should enable them to control this crucial match. But of equal importance was the fact that he finally proved he can handle the dual roles of leading his side and scoring Test runs.

Many believed it was the responsibility of captaining England that caused Vaughan to lose the form that placed him among the élite of world cricket, and the figures support that theory. Before yesterday's display his average as captain was 35. When he took charge it was 51.

Vaughan was helped by shoddy Australian cricket which brought back memories of England teams during Ashes battles in the 1990s. Ricky Ponting's side dropped four catches they would expect to take and Glenn McGrath bowled Vaughan with a no-ball when he was on 45.

The late wickets of Kevin Pietersen, who was caught hooking at deep square leg, and the nightwatchman, Matthew Hoggard, who lost his off stump to the final ball of the day, took a little of the gloss off Vaughan's batting: but this was England's day.

Vaughan arrived at the crease after 40 minutes of play when Brett Lee removed Andrew Strauss's off stump with a brilliant slower ball. Vaughan gloved his first ball from Lee for a single before Ponting, surprisingly, removed his spearhead from the attack.

It was not the only error the Australian captain made. Ponting waited until the 34th over before he brought Warne on. The dry, hard pitch offered him immediate assistance. Several deliveries spun sharply, but England were already on 130 for 1.

Jason Gillespie replaced Lee and Vaughan guided the bowler to third man for two fours in his first over. They were not the most convincing shots but they got him going.

Vaughan was dropped by Adam Gilchrist on 41 when he attempted to cut McGrath and was bowled by the next delivery, a no-ball. And from this moment on he never looked back, growing in confidence with each shot he played.

The elegant drives, the pick-ups, strokes we had taken for granted three years ago, all came back and they were lapped up by a capacity crowd. Gillespie suffered most and was smashed for 42 runs in four dreadful overs.

Vaughan's fun ended when he slogged the part-time spin of Simon Katich to McGrath at long on. He rocked his head back in disgust but stood tall on his way back to the England dressing-room.

During his phenomenal career Warne has dumbfounded batsmen with leg-breaks, googlies, flippers, sliders, top-spinners, back-spinners and zooters - do not ask me to describe what that ball does - but very few, if any, have come via the back of the batsman's bat and the wicketkeeper's thigh and chin.

Yet this is how Warne dismissed Marcus Trescothick when he attempted to sweep the fifth ball of his fifth over. The ball struck Trescothick on the pad before lobbing up in the air and on to his bat, which deflected it on to Gilchrist's thigh. It then bounced up, clipped his chin and offered him a simple catch.

Warne celebrated by showing the ball to the crowd as they applauded Trescothick's innings. But Warne did not have to wait long for his own personal ovation. It grew from the Brian Statham End of the ground when he had completed his over and quickly made its way around the stands. Warne acknowledged this special moment by taking his cap off.

Trescothick had played several lovely strokes and each time an Australian fast bowler over-pitched he was dispatched to the boundary. Trescothick was dropped by Gilchrist on 13, but both he and Vaughan made the most of Australia's errors by adding 137 runs for the second wicket.

McGrath has one of the shortest fuses in cricket and this ignited when he bowled Vaughan. He took his frustration out on the umpire, Steve Bucknor, suggesting that he should pay the same attention to the front line when Andrew Flintoff was bowling. Flintoff's foot is always close to over-stepping but replays showed that McGrath's left boot was a couple of inches over.

McGrath did not look to be too inconvenienced by the ankle injury that kept him out of the second Test but he was not at his best.

Vaughan was not the only England batsman badly in need of runs. Ian Bell plundered Bangladesh's toothless attack at the start of the summer but his tally after four innings against Australia was only 41. Bell struggled for long periods against Warne, who had little luck during 27 consecutive overs, and he gave McGrath a caught and bowled chance on 18, but he came through the examination and had reached 59 by the close.

He may be 23, and playing in only his sixth Test but Bell needs to go on and post a big score today. If he does England will be in a powerful position.

Michael Clarke, Australia's middle-order batsman, spent all but two overs off the field with a sore back. There may be doubts over his ability to bat freely.

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