Hussain could pay for bowlers' mistakes

First Test: England captain suffers by comparison with Vaughan as whole of second day is lost to weather
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The Independent Online

It has not taken long, one day to be precise, for the drawbacks of two captains running the England team to become apparent. After defeating Zimbabwe 2-0 in the Test series under the leadership of Nasser Hussain and winning both one-day competitions with Michael Vaughan at the helm, the current scenario was hailed by many as a dream ticket.

However, after Thursday's disastrous first day of the First Test here, this set-up can be seen to be far from perfect. Even though Hussain remains the right man to be leading England during this series, comparisons with how the side performed under Vaughan are inevitable. Hussain will not admit it, but the success of Vaughan's squad during the one-day games against Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe has placed added pressure on his shoulders.

Three high profile former England captains - Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Mike Gatting - and David Lloyd, the former England coach, have already said that Hussain should resign and it will not take too many days like Thursday before others add their voices to this theme.

That there was very little Hussain could do to alter the events is an irrelevance to many. Every captain is, to a large extent, only as good as his bowlers. During a match you can set perfect fields to the most cunning plan in the world, but unless bowlers bowl to them they are wasted. England's bowlers let Hussain down.

These failures are of little concern to those beyond the boundary with a fleeting interest in the fortunes of the England cricket team. All they will know is that the side, under Hussain's leadership, had let slip the advantage gained during Vaughan's time in charge.

Their contrasting styles of leadership will also lead to comparisons. During his four years in charge Hussain's method has been autocratic. Nobody watching has been left in any doubt who is in charge. With an active and intelligent mind and plenty of passion he has been one of England's best captains.

However, the 35-year-old did not seem himself while South Africa were taking England apart. With the exception of games against Australia, Hussain has appeared in control or has had a plan when the stick has been flying around. Against South Africa there was no ranting at his bowlers after a bad ball or looks that could kill when a fielder dropped a catch. Hussain, for once, looked reserved and almost ready to accept the events evolving in front of him.

This has never been his style and whether this had anything to do with Vaughan, only Hussain will know. It would be a surprise if a person as confident and single-minded as he attempted to copy the more laid-back style of Vaughan but it cannot be ruled out, especially after the positive comments it received from those who played under him. If Hussain were to be trying to adopt a more congenial approach he would become half the captain he is.

After scoring an unbeaten 178 and with his side in an impregnable position Graeme Smith, the South African captain, would be having no such concerns. Yes, he will be disappointed that the second day was abandoned at 3.15pm without a ball being bowled, but his stock is rising at the same rate as his opposite number's is falling.

Hussain, meanwhile, would have been happy to watch the rain fall because it not only increased the chance of his side coming out of this crucial match with a draw, but it also gave him an opportunity to sit down with the coach, Duncan Fletcher, and the bowlers and work out exactly what went wrong when the initiative was there for the taking.

Absent from these discussions, however, was Troy Cooley, the England fast bowling coach. It seems absurd that Cooley, who works with the bowlers for the three days before a Test, does not remain with the team to tend to their problems throughout a game rather than returning to Loughborough and fulfilling his role with the National Academy.

Unlike England, who stayed at the ground addressing such matters and visiting the indoor school, South Africa returned to their hotel almost two hours before the umpires made their decision.

After fracturing his right index finger while fielding, Marcus Trescothick made the most of the time off and had a net. "It was pretty sore," said Trescothick after his bat, "but I am hopeful I can bat in the match. It is a case of assessing it as we go along."

While the loss of yesterday's play reduced the tourists' chance of victory, the healthy rate at which they scored - 4.4 runs an over - has bought them time that could prove precious. The free-scoring of Herschelle Gibbs, who made 179, and Smith has given the visitors almost a session in credit. With an hour's play being added to the remaining three days - a total of 45 overs - yesterday's washout only equates to a loss of approximately 25 overs in the match.