Confident Vaughan is the natural successor

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan's succession to the throne abdicated by Nasser Hussain yesterday was built on the back of his having become the world's top batsman.

Vaughan took over the one-day captaincy after a prolific run of form. At home against India and Sri Lanka last year he became only the sixth player to score four hundreds in an English summer.

In a demoralising Ashes series in Australia in the winter, Vaughan came away with his head held high after making 633 runs and stealing the man-of-the-series award from the hosts, who won the series 4-1.

Vaughan displayed his suitability for leadership by captaining England's one-day squad to victories in this summer's two one-day series.

Yet his position in the squad was far from assured as his figures for one-day internationals were far inferior to his achievements in the Test arena. And he was taking over a side which was being thoroughly overhauled after a poor showing in the World Cup in South Africa in February and March.

The squad had not only been shorn of Hussain, who stood down as one-day captain after the World Cup while retaining his interest in the Test post, but also England's most prolific one-day batsman in Nick Knight and frontline fast bowler Andrew Caddick.

Vaughan's development has been rapid since his international bow in 1999-2000. He made his debut in South Africa on that tour, coming to the wicket in the first Test of the series with his side reeling on 2 for 4, and compiling a composed, two-hour innings of 33. Then there was his 41 against West Indies to set up an agonising victory at Lord's the following summer.

But if these initial steps were full of potential, fulfilment did not come until last season when his studious approach to batting was replaced by a new fluidity and with it a seeming enjoyment of his abilities. A run of bizarre luck with the nature of his dismissals also came to an end, ushering in a new-look Vaughan.

His two big innings against India last summer - 197 at Trent Bridge and 195 at The Oval - were studded with exquisitely executed cover drives and the only question mark remaining over his batsmanship was the strange inability to pass the double- hundred mark.

Scoring 900 runs at 90 in 12 innings against Sri Lanka and India in English conditions was merely a warm-up, however. The bigger test lay in wait in Australia and his free-scoring centuries were easily the highlight of England's Ashes campaign.

At Test level, Vaughan has become England's most prolific batsman since Graham Gooch, matching the former captain's feat of reaching the top of the world rankings.

But not since Ken Barrington in the 1960s has an Englishman retired with statistics telling of greatness. Vaughan has an average in excess of 50, traditionally regarded as a sign of one of the great Test batsmen, and one that Gooch and other recent England captains who were also batsmen, like David Gower, Mike Gatting, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart, never managed to achieve.

How heavily the pressure of captaincy weighs on his shoulders is a factor yet to be taken into account. It is to be hoped, for England's sake, that his batting remains unaffected.