Vaughan sprints round the learning curve

Caribbean Tour: Faster and fitter, leaner and meaner, England look forward to bright summer after their long winter

As England's winter wore on into summer, there was the unmistakable sense that more than the seasons were changing. Over nine Test matches and what turned out to be a mere eight one-day internationals, spread between October and May, the team palpably became Michael Vaughan's side.

As England's winter wore on into summer, there was the unmistakable sense that more than the seasons were changing. Over nine Test matches and what turned out to be a mere eight one-day internationals, spread between October and May, the team palpably became Michael Vaughan's side.

The last traces of Nasser Hussain's leadership were consigned to the past. History will be kind to Hussain's term as captain, but by the time England had drawn the one-day series in Barbados on Wednesday the shift was complete. Some of the faces may be the same but the rest is different. Not that Vaughan quite sees it that way.

"It's the England team. Never, ever say it's my England team," he said. "There'll be an England team as long as we live. It's no one's team." Vaughan is anxious not to be proprietorial about it in any way because it is not his style. Nor will he assess his own merits as a leader.

"I've no idea if I am better than before the winter began," he said. "I will never comment on that because the only people you ask are the players and what they feel. It's not for me to say; I'll just try and do it my way and hopefully get a few results and bring a few players on. At the moment it seems to be working."

But this is a team cast in his mould, and that much has become clearer throughout their tours to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean. Vaughan has insisted that the players become fitter, and if they had not done so it is doubtful whether they could have summoned the will and stamina to come back from 2-1 down and win the last game in the one-day series.

Thus, Vaughan not only led the first England team for 36 years to win a Test series in the West Indies, but also the only England team not to have lost a one-day series there. Vaughan said that while there needed to be discipline, he told the players to enjoy it.

"They have given it everything," he said after the last win. "There has been a new regime brought in which has meant we have trained harder, but everyone has bought into it and worked their socks off. I'm sure their bodies were a little bit tired, but you saw the enthusiasm they gave in the field. That's down to their work ethic. Their fitness has helped them to stay stronger, but most importantly we have stayed mentally strong."

Vaughan has also been scrupulously careful in dealing with his key player, Andrew Flintoff. He has given Flintoff a greater responsibility, promoting him up the order in the one-day team and giving him the chance to cement the No 6 position in the Test XI. There has also been a more prudent use of his bowling.

Flintoff is grateful. "It happened that we bowled as a group in the Test series and I didn't have to bowl as much as I had in the past," said the all-rounder. "I think that myself, the coach and the captain are realising how much I can do, and what I can't do, to keep me fit. Since Michael, there has been a lot more of a fitness kick in the side. We train a lot harder."

Despite the exhilarating comeback one-day victory in Barbados, the Test team are now generally deemed to be stronger because of their 3-0 series win against West Indies. In the shorter form, the team are either bedding down new players, or old ones in different roles. In the long version, they have a settled blend. Both Vaughan and Flintoff pointed out the differences.

"The Test side have got more experience with players like Thorpe, Hussain and Butcher," said Vaughan. "The one-day side are just learning, we're giving players experience all the time, and the last match was a really good learning curve. In the field, we're taking good catches and creating chances. We're progressing, we're nowhere near the finished article."

Flintoff said: "The Test side are a group who have been around a long time. They know the game and how to play. The one-day squad are exciting, with young guys who haven't played much. We're building to the World Cup, we need to get as much cricket under our belts and find out about our games as quickly as we can."

The Test defeat against Sri Lanka in December tends to cloud judgement slightly on the victory in the Caribbean, especially as Australia then went to Sri Lanka and won all three matches. It was timid batting more than anything that cost England dear in Sri Lanka, but that England side did not have Steve Harmison.

"People like Steve and Freddie [Flintoff] have bowled a lot and put so much into the team," said Vaughan. "They are going to have to go home for a week on the couch before we report next Sunday for the First Test against the Kiwis. Their missuses will just have to accept that, I'm afraid. That week off is going to be priceless. All the quicks have kept going, in the heat, bowling on hard surfaces. They just ran in and ran in all winter."

Another reason that the one-day series was not as successful as the Tests was the cancellation of three matches because of rain. This hindered the team's development - though we shall never know by how much. "It's been very hard," Vaughan said. "The tour to Sri Lanka was tough but the Caribbean has been equally tough, and that goes for every international game we have played. You've never felt you're in the game or out of it."

It is well known, and Vaughan volunteered it, that England could do with another front-line one-day batsman, and will soon need somebody in the Test team. Andrew Strauss, bemused to be selected for the one-dayers since he has an indifferent limited-overs record at county level, made a case for a dual role after two half-centuries.

"He's ambitious and it's great to have competition for places, even if that doesn't mean places are under threat," Vaughan said. But it is clear that Strauss has put under considerable pressure another link with the Hussain era - Hussain himself.

Three winter winners

Stephen Harmison

Here was a fast bowler arriving in the big time. Quick, accurate, controlled; he was transformed as player and bowler. His 7 for 12 in Jamaica was one of the great spells in Test cricket. Once the king of the wide boys, Harmison had emerged by the end of the tour as a significant one-day bowler as well.

Graham Thorpe

Having been apparently washed up last year, he again became integral to the middle order. His Barbados century (119 not out in a total of 226) in trying conditions was masterful, and his presence was always soothing. Seems to be at peace with himself again after domestic travails; there is more cricket to come.

Geraint Jones

On the eve of the final Test, Jones replaced the luckless Chris Read, who had not been given much time - actually a meagre three innings - to do wrong what it is he was supposed to have done wrong. Jones kept adequately and batted reasonably in Antigua, but he has been promised a run in the Test side.

Three winter losers

Ashley Giles

His revival in Sri Lanka was then subsumed by a decline in the West Indies, where in three Tests he bowled only 31 overs and took two wickets. His line went awry and he was too easily milked when he was not being slogged. Top bloke, the captain's friend and a great team man, but he is now struggling.

Anthony McGrath

He deserves a medal of some sort for his sheer stoicism. On both tours he failed to get a single game because rained-off matches meant there was no selection rotation. He was a surprise pick last summer when Andrew Flintoff was injured, and he has never let England down. Should be looked at again.

Nasser Hussain

Three Caribbean Test fifties, two of which were crucial, a refusal to buckle to pressure (quite the reverse); but he still looked poor, and could not disguise that the end is probably nigh. England will not unnecessarily prolong his career, as they did with Alec Stewart. Needs big runs quickly to survive.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own