Vaughan learns old tricks from new centurions

Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart will accept the plaudits for their 100th Test appearances later this week knowing they have already left a legacy with the next generation of England's batsmen.

Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart will accept the plaudits for their 100th Test appearances later this week knowing they have already left a legacy with the next generation of England's batsmen.

When the pair step out at Old Trafford to face the WestIndies, they will join an élite band of Englishmen - Graham Gooch, David Gower, Colin Cowdrey, Ian Botham and Geoff Boycott - who have reached the landmark.

But perhaps their biggest achievement has been passing down their vast knowledge and experience to younger contemporaries, helping them adjust to the rigours of Test cricket.

That information has been eagerly consumed by Yorkshire's Michael Vaughan, whose composure and authority at the crease after just five Tests has already warranted comparison with Atherton.

Vaughan and Atherton shared a crucial 92-run stand in the last Test against the West Indies a month ago to lay the foundations for a dramatic two-wicket victory to level the series at 1-1, the Lancastrian carefully guiding his young apprentice past hostile spells from Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

It was the culmination of several months' study for Vaughan, who has spent long periods in the nets with senior players and has also monitored their preparation and generaldedication to their sport.

"Athers said after Lord's that it was one of the hardest Tests he'd had to play and I would certainly go along with that," said Vaughan. "It was my fifth Test and that was probably my biggest challenge on a wicket that favoured two very good seamers - Curtly and Courtney.

"Having Athers at the other end at Lord's obviously helped me, and just having people like Alec and Athers around the dressing-room is a big help.

"Alec, Nasser Hussain, Mark Ramprakash, Graeme Hick and Athers are all good to talk to when you're practising and when you're in the field."

Yet although Vaughan is keen to learn, he is astute enough to realise that all the advice on earth cannot help him once he is at the crease. In the end, only his own efforts will decide whether he will become an established England Test player.

He said: "They can tell you things but when they ball is coming down towards you, there is only you that can hit it or leave it and play the stroke how you want to play it. It's great advice but you still have to go out and do it yourself .

"I've also learnt from the winter tour that you really have to prepare in your own way. Stewart, Hussain and Atherton seem to have a set plan every day.

"I think that is just a routine they have got into over the years and I think as soon as a player can get their own routine, one which works best for them, it improves their game.

"I tend to be pretty relaxed, have a few throw-downs on the morning of the match, have a look at the wicket and stand at each end. I watch every ball when I'm waiting to bat. But as soon as I'm next in I start trying to get tuned in, see what the bowler's doing and start thinking about how I want to play it."

The only thing missing from Vaughan's apparently seamless transition from Yorkshire player to England batsman is a major score at Test level, although he did hit a matchwinning 69 against South Africa at Centurion.

He said: "If I look at the five Tests I've played there was a bit of a dodgy wicket in Johannesburg and the last one I played, at Lord's, was on a tricky wicket and I scored a 30 and a 40 on those. Maybe on good wickets they were worth a lot more, but your statistics don't say that.

"I'd love to get big runs on English soil before the end of the summer. If I can get a hundred against Courtney and Curtly in their last series it would be a great achievement for me and it would also help the team towards winning the Test series."

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