No one will have been more delighted with England's remarkable victory at The Oval than Michael Vaughan. This has been a testing summer for him and one that he will hardly have been prepared for. He knew he was to take over the reins for England's one-day matches when Nasser Hussain resigned the one-day captaincy after the World Cup in South Africa. He will have anticipated at least this summer to settle into that job before moving up to take charge of the Test side.
He handled the side well in the two one-day competitions and then settled back into the apparently effortless routine of making a hundred every third time he went out to bat in a Test match with his 156 in the first Test at Edgbaston. His summer, like that of several others, was thrown into disarray on the last morning of that match when Hussain resigned.
Two-and-a-half days later, Vaughan found himself leading England on to the field in the second Test at Lord's. Hardly time to blink an eye, let alone to familiarise himself with the different demands made upon a Test captain.
Vaughan is an outwardly calm and unemotional character who does not, like his predecessor, wear his heart on his sleeve. He gave no outward indication of not being able to take the transformation in his stride. He does not bark commands at his troops nor furiously wave his arms. A purposeful stride sees him at his most demonstrative.
Considering that he was thrown in at the deep end, he did considerably more than just stay afloat. He showed a good understanding of the tactics required for Test cricket even if his method was based on a "gently, gently" approach that may have surprised team-mates more used to the frenetic Hussain.
In the one-day game his bowlers had done him well in their allotted stints of 10 overs. Now, in the longer game, they did not put it together in the same way. James Anderson, fresh from a one-day hat-trick at The Oval, showed much less control on the bigger stage. Steve Harmison's apprenticeship began to look as if it would continue for longer than was hoped. Then there were the injuries that robbed the side of seam bowler after seam bowler, with Darren Gough jumping ship after the Lord's Test.
Added to this, his opposite number, Graeme Smith, refused to get out for less than 200 while Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini showed the control his own bowlers, with the exception of Andrew Flintoff, lacked. The job was becoming progressively harder for the new captain, although he then had the great piece of luck to win the toss on a doubtful Trent Bridge pitch.
After that, the Headingley Test will have come as a body blow when one potential winning position after another was squandered and England lost by 191 runs.
Most irritating of all, Vaughan could not find his own form. He was batting well but getting good balls and luck was against him. With the criticism that the captaincy was affecting his batting, his failure to score runs will have been doubly galling. Even so, he has just masterminded one of the more impressive victories in the long history of English cricket.
This will undoubtedly give his confidence a huge boost and send him away to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies much surer of himself and his new position. It can, too, only help to restart the flow of those inimitable hundreds. Vaughan has just taken a giant step along the learning curve of captaincy and it will not be long before the benefits will be seen.Reuse content