Vaughan's real one-day value lies in long-term continuity
Tuesday 31 May 2005
After determining Graham Thorpe's Test future yesterday evening England's selectors switched their attention to the equally chewy subject of the one-day side. This squad, like Thorpe, will find out their fate this morning when David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, reveals the names of the England cricketers who will play in the NatWest series and the inaugural NatWest International Twenty20 match against Australia.
And, as with Thorpe, the results of the selectors' deliberations will have a major impact on this summer's Ashes series. The teams which represent England and Australia in limited-overs cricket during the next six weeks will be different to those which line up for the first Test on 21 July, yet it is crucial for Michael Vaughan that his side come out of these contests with reputations and confidence in tact.
Under Vaughan's leadership England have made great progress as a Test side, winning 17 and drawing five of the 26 matches they have played. But England are a pretty ordinary one-day side and since Nasser Hussain's resignation at the end of the 2003 World Cup they have won 22 of their 42 games, including nine wins over Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The fear for England is that Australia, who are as strong in limited-overs cricket as they are in Tests, will make huge psychological inroads during the one-day games.
The selectors' dilemma starts with the captain. Vaughan's one-day record is poor and shows little sign of improving. In 66 matches he has scored 1,598 runs at an average of 28.54, and has yet to post a 100. in domestic cricket he has fared little better and if any other members of England's top-order had a record like this the selectors would be looking to replace them.
But despite these figures England would be mad to drop Vaughan. His laid-back style of leadership has brought out the best in England's cricketers. Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard now feel they can express themselves on a cricket field without fear of recrimination, and they love playing under him.
We have seen that the selection of separate Test and one-day captains does not work. The actions of one leader - as Michael Atherton and Hussain will vouch - eventually undermine the other, and England are right to put the interests of the Test team ahead of those of the one-day side.
Yet there is a one-day policy that England should bin over the coming weeks - the tactic of opening the batting with Geraint Jones. Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, has an image of Jones becoming an English version of Australia's Adam Gilchrist. It would do England's chances of winning the next World Cup no harm at all if Jones could develop into this sort of player, but it is highly unlikely. Gilchrist is a phenomenon. He is one of the greatest players cricket has seen.
Throwing Jones in at the top of the order, and the inevitable comparisons to Gilchrist, has not helped him at all. If anything it has put him under greater pressure, because sceptics will now be looking at both his batting and keeping. Andrew Strauss, Vikram Solanki, or even Vaughan should open with Marcus Trescothick but Jones should return to seven or eight where his later order hitting would be an asset.
These matches, which start with England's first Twenty20 international in Southampton, will give Kevin Pietersen further chance to show his class. The Hampshire batsman made a breathtaking start to his international career, when he scored three blistering centuries in South Africa, and he will be hoping to use the coming matches as a platform to push for Test selection.
Pietersen will find it harder to get the better of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee but they, in turn, will know that this fearless 24-year-old will be gunning for them.
The one-day specialists Paul Collingwood, Darren Gough, Alex Wharf, Kabir Ali and Solanki can expect to be given first crack at the Aussies, but it will be interesting to see how England use Harmison. The form of the fast bowler will have an enormous influence on England's aspirations of winning the Ashes but they may decide to protect him from some early bruises in the hope that he will inflict them later on.The short run: How Vaughan is bottom of the one-day captains' class
* R PONTING (Australia) Matches 222 Runs 7,987 Average 42.25 100s 17
* S GANGULY (India) Matches 271 Runs 9,967 Average 41.18 100s 22
* G SMITH (South Africa) Matches 68 Runs 2,609 Average 40.76 100s 4
* INZAMAM-UL-HAQ (Pakistan) Matches 344 Runs 10,933 Average 39.90 100s 10
* M ATAPATTU (Sri Lanka)
Matches 225 Runs 7,296 Average 37.80 100s 11
* S CHANDERPAUL (West Indies)
Matches 175 Runs 5,188 Average 36.53 100s 3
* S FLEMING (New Zealand)
Matches 235 Runs 6,648 Average 32.11 100s 6
* M VAUGHAN (England)
Matches 66 Runs 1,598 Average 28.54 100s 0
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