'We are up against it but we'll keep fighting'

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Michael Vaughan was predictably rather rueful yesterday evening as he summed up his first day as England's captain on which his side had been taken apart by South Africa.

"The day didn't quite go to plan," he said. "We were not good enough. We are up against it, chasing the game, but we will keep fighting and hopefully tomorrow we will have a better day."

For the eager gathering here yesterday had begun with ovations for two stalwarts, later dropped to applause before ending with a token putting together of hands.

When Alec Stewart entered the Long Room for the start of his 36th and penultimate Test innings here, the first thing he would have seen was a portrait of himself, placed above the doorway by MCC to mark his 20th and final Test at headquarters. MCC's generous gesture required them to replace one of the former Australian all-rounder Keith Miller with that of Stewart, which had been hanging in the Lord's Museum since Andy Pankhurst was commissioned to paint it to honour Stewart's 100th Test in 2000.

While glancing at his image Stewart would have heard the appreciation of the MCC members, twisting in their high chairs in cricket's Holy of Holies to get a glimpse of England's most capped player. Unfortunately those same palms came together more reluctantly 20 minutes later when Stewart threaded his way back through the throng at the end of his brief innings.

And it had been a similar tale for another former England captain, Nasser Hussain, who was accorded the signal honour of being applauded all the way out to the middle by a public appreciative of his efforts as captain. The applause on his premature return had also been distinctly subdued. By the time Messrs Makhaya Ntini, Andrew Hall and Shaun Pollock had worked their way into the England lower order those same MCC members were distinctly begrudging with their gestures.

There was, of course, appreciation of Ntini's magnificent debut at Lord's. "My wish," he had said before the match, "is to make sure I leave my name on one of those honours boards - five for something - anything! I know Jonty Rhodes' name is there and I want to see another South African on those boards. I want to leave a mark so that when the next generation comes to play England they can look at those boards and see my name up there."

He fulfilled his wish with a haul of 5 for 75. "My grandfather would probably have slaughtered a cow in celebration if he had been alive," said the South African paceman later.

At least Darren Gough and James Anderson resuscitated a happy clappy atmosphere - Gough's two sixes off Paul Adams had the dusty and the crusty practically falling out of their chairs in delight as the pair hammered a record for the last wicket against South Africa of 55.

But when South Africa picked up where they had left off in the first Test then things reverted, and English hands were being put together more in prayer than in praise.

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