Vaughan's first steps on road to recovery

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The weather that frustrated Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire in their attempt to begin their County Championship campaigns did not preclude some brighter news for England here yesterday.

While the 2005 champions, Nottinghamshire, will have to wait until this morning to begin the defence of their title, the injured England captain, Michael Vaughan, took an important step towards a return to action with his first net session since returning home early from the tour of India.

Vaughan had knee surgery in December, ruling him out of the one-day series that concluded England's visit to Pakistan, but broke down again in February, missing all of the meaningful action in India.

After a brief work-out in the indoor nets at Trent Bridge yesterday morning, as well as a jog around the outfield, Vaughan gave his knee a qualified thumbs-up.

"It feels OK but it is very early days yet," he said. "I've had 20 minutes against the bowling machine and it is good to pick up a bat again.

"I'm getting used to jogging on it and I'm hoping for a bit of luck now."

By that he meant no further setbacks, although a return to action in time for the first home Test against Sri Lanka on 11 May still looks doubtful. However, suggestions voiced at the time of the breakdown that his international career might be over now look wide of the mark.

The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, has not placed any restrictions on Vaughan playing for Yorkshire in the meantime, should he feel ready, although the county's coach, David Byas, said the county would not take any risks with his fitness.

"There is certainly no pressure from us, and I don't think there is any from England for him to be playing," Byas said. "We would be foolish to rush him back. Progress has been made, but he will play when he's fit to play."

Vaughan, desperate not to scupper his chances of leading England's Ashes defence in Australia next winter, has been putting in long hours of gym work since returning from India, with the Yorkshire physiotherapist, Scott McAllister, keeping a close eye on him.

McAllister last week stressed that Vaughan would be given as long as necessary to make a full recovery. "The only time schedule is how his knee responds," McAllister said.

"We are not going to push him and neither are England. It is vital that he gets the knee right to ensure that when he does come back, he does so with confidence."