Weak opposition not the only tale of Vaughan's magical summer

There is a danger that the current weakness of the West Indies side will be allowed to compromise the true value of what Michael Vaughan's England have achieved both in the Caribbean last winter and now in England this summer.

There is a strong undercurrent of feeling that says that it's all very well to beat the West Indies, but that these results are hardly relevant when it comes to judging the side against Australia. That moment of truth will arrive next year when the Australians come here for a five-match series for the Ashes. Before that, South Africa have to be beaten during the winter.

In spite of the relatively poor opposition, England have made great strides in recent months. First, the side has a more settled look to it than it has for a long time. The selectors are no longer having to chop and change in desperation.

Not only are the same players being called up on a regular basis, but also in every department there is excellent reserve strength.

The way in which Andrew Strauss, Robert Key and now Ian Bell have taken their chances has meant that England have continued to prosper although two important middle order batsmen, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe are both out of the side with injuries. Butcher's place may even be under threat for the South African tour.

The fast bowling is in good hands with either Jimmy Anderson or Simon Jones as the first reserve and if anything should happen to Geraint Jones behind the stumps, there is always Chris Read to fall back on.

One of the keys to England's recent run of success has been the speed at which "Freddie" Flintoff has developed and matured both as a batsman and a bowler. His present form gives the side ballast, stability and flexibility as high class all-rounders always do.

Winning has now become a habit and this summer England have beaten New Zealand and the West Indies with style and conviction. The side knows how to win, which was something that was lacking during Mike Atherton's long tenure in office.

If England win in South Africa, as they should, they will take on their oldest enemy next summer full of confidence.

With every outing the fast bowlers are looking more disciplined. Ashley Giles has been a revelation with both his off-spin and his batting. The bowlers all feed off each other and they are backed up by brilliant fielding.

In this last Test, Key failed with the bat and then on the second afternoon threw himself to his left at backward square leg and brought off a staggering catch to send back Shivnarine Chanderpaul. It was the sort of catch that changes the course of matches and can only help an already vibrant team spirit.

England's cricketers may have faced weak opposition this summer, but they have been developing all the right sort of habits and, perhaps most important of all, their confidence is sky high.

They have become a combination that even the Australians, backed by their all-powerful propaganda machine, may find harder to break down than they anticipate.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine