Moores hands Vaughan Ashes confidence vote
The England coach, Peter Moores, wants Michael Vaughan to captain England in next summer's Ashes series. Several senior figures at the England and Wales Cricket Board have already intimated their desire for Vaughan to be in charge when Australia arrive, but it is the voice of Moores that should carry the greatest clout.
The relationship between the England coach and captain is the most important at the ECB. The pair have to trust each other and be happy to work together, planning a way to defeat Australia. It was the same between Duncan Fletcher, Moores' predecessor, and Vaughan in 2005. At the time they had an excellent understanding and the Ashes were regained for the first time in 20 years.
At the conclusion of England's draw in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's on Monday, Moores was asked whether Vaughan's position as Ashes captain was unchallenged. "Yes," he said. "It is important to have a mature captain, especially when you are developing as a team. We have had quite a lot of changes in both Test and one-day teams, and we have an inexperienced set of bowlers, so to have somebody like Michael to marshal them and give his experience is very important.
"The split captaincy [between the Test and one-day teams] has not affected him and Michael has still maintained his calm leadership. I think one of his strengths is being naturally calm. It is a skill to be able to give off that, a sign of a good leader, so when the pressure is on he doesn't pass that on to his team."
Moores was equally complimentary about Vaughan's batting. Vaughan walked out against New Zealand without a decent score for Yorkshire to draw confidence from, but the familiar surroundings of Lord's accommodated him once again, providing the 33-year-old with his 18th Test hundred. "He did really well because any time you don't get runs you are under pressure coming into a Test match," Moores said. "New Zealand bowled well all day, they pitched it up, got it to move around. He came out here and wanted to show everybody what sort of Test player he is. He is developing the team and wants to be at the front of it. He is at the stage of his career where players mature, batsmen especially, and they tend to have their best spell in the last third of their careers."
Moores and Vaughan have work to do if they are to transform England from a modest mid-table outfit into a team capable of beating the undisputed world champions. Victory in the second Test at Old Trafford, which starts on Friday, would be a step in the right direction but the first Test highlighted several issues.
England would have needed to produce something special to win a Test in which so much time had been lost to rain and bad light, but they showed little desire to push for a victory when batting on the fourth day. The weather seemed to offer a convenient excuse to write the match off as a draw before travelling to Manchester.
In the current climate, when the qualities of Test cricket are constantly being compared to Twenty20, it is a dangerous attitude to have. There is always a tendency to overreact to one frustrating match but if the players want to play Test cricket and for it to remain the pinnacle of the game, which they do, they have to be prepared to take a few more risks, whether batting in slightly unfavourable light or pushing for a victory no matter how far-fetched it may seem.
The predicament created by the promoter Allen Stanford, with the centrally contracted players who do not play Twenty20 cricket apparently wanting a slice of the $20m (£10.2m) that could be up for grabs in a winner-takes-all challenge, needs to be resolved too if harmony is to be preserved. There is nothing like money, and the perceived injustice in how it is divvied up, to divide a team and change the attitude of its players.
Most people who reach the top have a selfish survival instinct and England's cricketers have a lot to play for if the $20m match takes place in Antigua on 1 November. The money on offer will make some put their own interests ahead of those of the team. Injuries will be played through or orchestrated to guarantee selection, and innings or bowling stints amended for similar reasons.
"It will work itself out, common sense will win," said Moores, who insisted that the discussions have not been a distraction to his side. "I've said before the key is to make sure it is fair and transparent, so everybody knows what is happening and we can move forward. It is a changing landscape."
The umpire Darrell Hair, meanwhile, is somewhat apprehensive on his return to Tests following his 16-month internatinal ban. Friday's Test will be his first high-profile assignment since he was banned in the aftermath of the forfeited Test at the Oval in 2006, when he accused Pakistan of ball-tampering.
"I think the decision-making ability is still there," he said. "The only thing that could change that is a lack of confidence because I haven't been out there. Provided I get the right processes and triggers into place in my technique I'm confident I'll be able to make correct decisions.
"If that turns out to be otherwise, then I'd probably need to look at if I am still capable of umpiring at an international level, but at the moment I feel confident in my abilities."
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