Sharp relief for Vaughan

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The Independent Online

England's mission was quite straightforward. Go to Dhaka, show the worst side in the world who's boss, and then move on to Chittagong for more of the same before getting down to the real stuff.

Glaziers could have exhausted their stocks in providing windows out of which to throw that plan. The paramount mood when the winning run arrived in the First Test was relief. There had been nothing like it since Mafeking.

Make no mistake, defeat (and the shame, embarrassment and laughter which would naturally have accompanied it) was distinctly possible when the final day began. Michael Vaughan's team responded to their predicament with a thoroughly efficient display: nine overs and some high-class seam bowling to take the four Bangladesh wickets they needed, and then a mere 39.2 more overs and some assertive batting to knock off the target.

This was as it should have been (in the opening four days, for one thing). Bangla-desh had not won any of their previous 24 Tests, and had lost 18 in a row. One day they will win, but a decade's time would not have been an overly pessimistic assessment before this game.

They are improving markedly under their latest coach, Dav Whatmore, but the statistics speak for themselves. Had the home team managed to sustain their effort to the end and sneak victory it would have been fascinating to hear England's reasoning. Too hot, too wet, too dark, too many ageing batsmen, too many young bowlers, would no doubt have come into play. So they had too much experience and too much inexperience all at once.

Excuses were not needed in the end, but this does not disguise the fact that England are still ridiculously erratic. It is a feature of their game that Nasser Hussain's captaincy could not eradicate, and it has come quickly to dominate Vaughan's tenure.

Vaughan himself can do something about this, and relief was also the immediate response to his fluent, unbeaten innings as England cruised to the 164 they needed. His 81 not out was easily his highest innings for England since he assumed the captaincy.

The doubts were starting to grow. His average as captain was 17. The question had to be asked: was the captaincy diminishing his batting? The answer to that has not been delivered conclusively yet, and Vaughan will have to score runs against Sri Lanka and West Indies later in the winter. But this was an indication. He unfolded his trademark shots, not least the compelling front-foot pull, often against the spin, and displayed his enviable balance, initially going forward but then swiftly, elegantly transferring the weight to the back foot to play a forcing stroke.

Vaughan is the first to concede that his golden year of 2002 (there were four hundreds against Sri Lanka and India before three in the Ashes) was sometimes chaperoned by good fortune. All batsmen need such company.

He scratched about in the first innings of this Test but stuck at it, and when yesterday he played and missed a time or two at the new ball it did not take the edge. Thus fortified, he was away.

The England captain is too cool to betray his feelings, but much longer without proper runs and there would have been plenty of former captains prepared to do it for him. It would be handy if he and Trescothick could get runs together again. Their century partnership in the first innings was their first in 18 Tests. But those who were proposing last summer that Trescothick should drop down the order have been rebuffed.

On to Chittagong then, where Bangladesh can take heart. Their temperamentally frail and young batsmen have reduced their tendency to play a shot a ball to around a shot every two balls, and they have two spinners - one of them the 17-year-old Enamul Haque Jnr - who turn the ball. In successive matches they have come close to beating Pakistan - they lost by a wicket - and scared the pants off England. But they have lost. They should be beaten again next week, and relief should not be required.