Vaughan has the steel for England challenge

New captain needs to inspire improved displays from fast bowlers against confident South Africa in today's second Test at Lord's
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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan knew Nasser Hussain had something important to tell him on Monday morning because the then England captain interrupted his leading batsman during a vital part of his pre-match routine: breakfast. Three days after their brief meeting, England's new Test captain finds himself with more on his plate than the bacon butty he was tucking into at the time. Only at the conclusion of the second Test against South Africa, that starts at Lord's today, will Vaughan know which is kinder on the stomach.

"It was actually a funny scenario," said Vaughan, recapping on the moment he found out he had landed the most responsible job in the game. "I was sat in the dressing-room eating a bacon sandwich when Nasser walked up to me and asked whether he could have a word with me. I immediately wondered what was going on because I didn't think he was going to tell me off for eating a bacon sandwich.

"When I went outside with him he indicated he was going to call it a day and I said I was ready to accept the job."

During the next five days the 28-year-old will not be afraid to draw on Hussain's wealth of knowledge, or hand out the odd rollocking should it be needed. Although he comes across as a laid-back and mild-mannered soul, one only has to ask the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to realise Vaughan is no soft touch.

Owing to the fact that there has been a two-day gap between these Test matches Vaughan has had little chance to implement any of the plans he may have considered while in charge of the England one-day side. Even so he defended Hussain's sudden decision to stand down.

"The job has definitely come to me sooner than I expected, but I don't think Nasser has landed me in it at all," said Vaughan. "I know people will say that, but Nasser has had four years at the top and has done a fantastic job. He has handed over to me an England team that is quite young and has a hell of a lot of talent. I am really pleased that Nasser has given me a team which can progress. With it we can try and build for the future.

"Test match cricket will be a different challenge to the one-dayers. Because it lasts five days it is going to be tougher and more tiring mentally, but I feel I am ready for the job and I thought I did OK in the one-dayers."

The biggest challenge for Vaughan will be getting England's bowlers, who did so well under his guidance during June and July, to recapture the form and confidence which was lacking as Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs put on 338 for the first wicket at Edgbaston. A quick look at the pitch will have raised the spirits of James Anderson, Darren Gough, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, but they must show far greater discipline than in the first Test if they are to make the most of a potentially helpful surface.

Mike Hunt, the head groundsman, has deliberately left more grass on the pitches at HQ this summer and the green tinge to the strip being used should mean batting is a less enjoyable experience than it was in Birmingham. It will be the overhead conditions that dictate the decision either captain makes at the toss, however, and with the forecast being iffy for the next two days it would be a brave man who chose to bat first.

At yesterday's practice, all of England's pacemen spent time working with their bowling coach, Troy Cooley, none more than Anderson, who had a poor first Test. Because of his age - 21 - and the speed at which he has risen to the top Anderson is bound to have the odd bad match. There are technical aspects that the Lancashire fast bowler needs to work on, but for this game the most important matter to master is that he stops running on the area of the pitch forbidden to a bowler's follow-through.

Bowling with the added pressure of knowing that if you tread on a certain area again you will be forced out of the attack is a huge distraction, and, at Edgbaston, Anderson received an official warning from the umpire.

England's only injury worry concerns Marcus Trescothick, who fractured the tip of his right index finger at Edgbaston. The opener looked in little discomfort when batting and England appear certain to play him even if they have to hide him in the field.

South Africa arrived full of confidence at Lord's, a venue where they have won the two Tests they have played since readmission to the international arena. Despite their powerful display in the first Test, they are likely to make two changes. The addition of Andrew Hall, who has been playing for Worcestershire, will give their team better balance and the all-rounder is set to replace Charl Willoughby. Hall's batting skills will also encourage them to pick the left-arm leg-spin of Paul Adams above Robin Peterson.

Smith, the South African captain, was not foolish enough to state England were there for the taking, but such thoughts must exist within his squad. "We played some special cricket at Edgbaston," he said. "We have come here with a lot of confidence and well prepared. Because of this and what has happened, England are under a little bit more pressure. The key to this Test series is to keep humble and keep focused each time you do something well."

ENGLAND: M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), M A Butcher (Surrey), N Hussain (Essex), A McGrath (Yorkshire), A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt), A Flintoff (Lancashire), A F Giles (Warwickshire), D Gough (Yorkshire), S J Harmison (Durham), J M Anderson (Lancashire).

SOUTH AFRICA (from): G C Smith (capt), H H Gibbs, G Kirsten, J A Rudolph, H H Dippenaar, N D McKenzie, M V Boucher (wkt), S M Pollock, R J Peterson, M Ntini, D Pretorious, M Zondeki, A J Hall, P R Adams.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D B Hair (Aus).