Michael Vaughan raised enormous expectations for the World Cup when he scored more Test runs than anyone in the world last year. After taking the bowling attacks of New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India and Australia for 1,481 runs, England's premier batsman looked set to use South Africa as a stage to double up and establish himself as one of the leading one-day cricketers, too.
However, four matches into the tournament and with possibly one left to play, Vaughan has yet to make his mark. Two fifties against Holland and Pakistan gave glimpses of what he is capable of but going into today's game against Australia the elegant right-hander had only made 137 runs in the competition, at an average of 34.25. For Vaughan the World Cup is in danger of being over before it has started.
There can be little doubt that the 28-year-old will eventually crack this form of the game because he is a class act. Vaughan has the temperament, touch and range of stroke to succeed and England need him to at St George's Park today. With Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick both struggling, it will be Vaughan to whom England look for runs against Australia because he performed so impressively against them during the recent Ashes series.
And while Vaughan is reasonably content with the way his one-day career is progressing, he is desperate to push on. "I really want that big score, a hundred, to kick-start my one-day cricket," he said. "I expect to go out and score runs, especially after what has gone on in the last 12 months, which has been fantastic. I have not really looked to play any differently to the way I do in Test cricket, which is to be positive.
"I scored 50 against Holland, 60 in the VB Final in Melbourne and 50 against Pakistan when I should have gone on to score 100, but my mind-set has been good. I have got out caught each time when, if I had hit it a yard either side of the fielder, it would have been four runs, so you can't be too hard on yourself."
It is interesting to hear him say that he attempts to play in the same vein in both forms of the game because it looks at times as if he tries to be too positive in one-day cricket. Against Pakistan at Cape Town he top-edged a pull off the first ball he faced; it was a no-ball, but he did not hear the call. He needs to be more watchful because England arenot packed with match-winners and they rely onhis runs.
It has not just been his Test performances which have given Vaughan confidence and helped his recent form in the short version of the game. He has also benefited from a regular spot in the batting order. During 2002 Nasser Hussain had claimed the No 3 spot as his own but the weight of runs scored by Vaughan has forced Nasser to give way to the better player.
"I enjoy batting at three," Vaughan said. "In my one-day career for Yorkshire and England it has always been four, five, six or seven and I have never had a position where I know I am going to play. Since Australia, when I was told I was batting at three, I have been able to set my mind on the game-plan that is required for both getting in in the first 15 overs, when you need to make the most of the fielding restrictions, and then if you get through these overs you can try and work the ball around.
"People see Michael Vaughan as a great player but I have only played 25 games, and in only seven of these have I been at No 3. So I only look at these innings, when I have had a position which is more accustomed to the way I bat, and I think my stats are pretty good over that period." Like most cricketers Vaughan knows his numbers and he averages more at three (29.6) than in any other position (20.9), but they are not as impressive as both he and England would like.
"I know I can do it," he said, "but one-day hundreds are hard to get. Nasser has only scored one and he has played in more than 80 games. If I am batting at three I want to become like Ricky Ponting. A player who can win England games whether it is with a quick-fire 60 or a 120. I want to change the momentum of an innings and the way I feel I can do that is by being positive." Michael, there has never been a better time.
What if for England
If Australia beat England today, England must rely on Pakistan beating Zimbabwe for the three last-named to finish on 12 points. As each would have beaten one another, the remaining Super Six place would be decided on net run rate.
If England beat Australia, they will qualify for the Super Sixes provided Pakistan beat Zimbabwe.
If England beat Australia and Zimbabwe beat Pakistan, Zimbabwe will qualify for the Super Sixes.
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