Vaughan keeps focus as it rains on his parade

Disappointment for 14,000 as thunder and lightning puts paid to Twenty20 clash at Headingley. Richard Edmondson reports
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The Independent Online

The England captain was on home territory, at Headingley, skippering a World XI against a Yorkshire XI in a Twenty20 match as part of his benefit. But then the whole of England may soon be home for the captain. He may not know what an empty glass is ever again.

Vaughan had with him the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Steve Harmison, which also meant he had with him 14,000 ticket holders. Simon Jones was missing and there was no sign of Matthew Hoggard but all the other England players were on the scorecard.

It all seemed an attractive proposition, right up to the time it was determined that Vaughan's side would bat first. At 5.10pm, a close and brooding evening exploded. The huge crowd scattered as Leeds was visited by thunder, lightning and driving rain, in all honesty the sort of weather Vaughan would like to bag up and take down south for five days next week.

There is, though, a further injury worry to report. Fatigue has come to Ashley Giles's spinning fingers after a signing session in last night's gloom. Watch out for Giles's autograph wherever you are today. It is on small bats, shirts, hats and cards. The other England players also serviced the crowd once the match was abandoned.

The influence of cricket is everywhere, too, as Ashes victory beckons and the significance of the summer game escalates. We may soon be seeing more cricketers on those playing fields not sold off.

Cricket, mercifully, is not the new football though, notwithstanding the language from Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich when dismissed at Trent Bridge. Lip-readers of a certain disposition are still recovering in a darkened room.

Indeed, the juxtaposition of the Test series with the start of the Premiership has done footballers no favours. Their posturing seems more absurd in comparison with the gleaming heroes of the gentlemen's sport. There is a hardness to the engagingly rough-hewn Flintoff which his name suggests, yet also a compassion for defeated opponents. In addition comes an Alf Tupper quality about him. You could imagine the man training on takeaways and shandy. He is a character who can duck not only bouncers, but, thus far, the temptations which accompany huge celebrity at a young age.

Flintoff's greatest gift though is that, cricketing genius apart, he appears thunderously normal and seems to think of himself in those terms. He is a figure you can picture cleaning his car on Sunday mornings or playing in the pub darts team. You would not want to be the board, though.

The star of Vaughan has never been brighter. There has been a Gary Kasparov touch about his deployment of troops and he is fast approaching the station of guru, a sort of Mike Brearley with runs. The skipper has the Aussies where he wants them, 2-1 down and rattled, complaining the rules are being bent.

But, as he loped off the square in his jolly green giant outfit yesterday, one thought must have kept Vaughan away from hubris. The simple geometry remains that if Australia win at the Oval, the Ashes are retained.

There is also a history lesson to heed. It was in this county in 1992 - 30 miles down the M1 in Sheffield - that Neil Kinnock prematurely celebrated a victory which seemed to signify the end of a long run by his most significant opponents. He never got another chance.