Vaughan resigns as England captain

Michael Vaughan, England's most successful test cricket captain of all time, resigned today following his side's series defeat against South Africa.

The 33-year-old's announcement came at a hastily arranged press conference in Loughborough less than 24 hours after he said he would "let the dust settle" on his team's defeat.

Vaughan has struggled with the bat in recent seasons, but England supporters will always remember him as the man who led the team to their first Ashes series win for 20 years in 2005.

With 26 victories in his 51 tests as captain, Vaughan was his country's most successful leader on the field, and he leaves the post just three matches behind Mike Atherton's record for most games as England captain.

South Africa beat the home side by five wickets at Edgbaston yesterday to consign Vaughan's men to their third series defeat in five, and Vaughan said he felt it was time for someone else to take the helm.

The decision was clearly an intensely emotional one for Vaughan, and he wiped away tears as he faced the media to make his announcement.

"It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make but also the easiest," he said.

"The hardest because I'm giving away the job I've loved for the last five years, one I've put my heart and soul into, but also the easiest because my mind has told me to pack it in.

"I felt if I kept going my career could come to an abrupt end - hopefully, this can prolong my career."

At the height of his career in the early 2000s, Vaughan's elegance and timing with the bat were almost unparalleled in the game, and fans will hope relinquishing the captaincy will help him regain some of that form.

"I really do believe these could be the best years of my playing career and I can go on and score plenty of runs," he said.

"It is a difficult job but a fantastic job but not many people get to do it which is a real privilege. I've loved every minute of it.

"It's a big disappointment not getting through until next year but there's no point carrying on when you know it's time to go."

Vaughan has struggled in recent matches, his last five tests producing just one century and an average of 22.

He ruled himself out of the final test against South Africa at the Oval later this week, and if his replacement scores heavily, the Yorkshire batsman's place could be in jeopardy.

Paul Collingwood, England's one-day captain, also stepped down, and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) may now choose one man for both roles.

The ECB's managing director Hugh Morris hailed Vaughan's influence on England since he took charge of the team in 2003.

"Michael led from the front and led with honesty and integrity every step of the way," Morris said.

"He took the England captaincy to new heights. Michael was the best possible ambassador for the game and his record as captain speaks volumes for the character he instilled in the dressing room."

Yorkshire captain Darren Gough, who will welcome Vaughan back for his side's battle to remain in LV County Championship Division One, was surprised he decided to step down.

"I am very disappointed for Michael Vaughan and for England because I thought he was an excellent captain and leader," Gough said.

"I said on my radio show last week that I thought he should stay on as England captain.

"He is a terrific player and, like Collingwood, is probably only one innings away from resurrecting his form.

"The timing is never right when to resign but it tends to be when you have lost a series. I think that pressure from outside has built up sufficient for him to say enough is enough.

"He was well respected by the players and I thought he should have waited until after India to make a decision but it is up to him and he has decided to do it now."

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