End of an Era: The Legacy of Michael Vaughan

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End of an Era: The Legacy of Michael Vaughan

The cricket world was rocked this morning by the resignation of Michael Vaughan from the England captaincy. Vaughan's five years in charge of England bought much success, with 2005's Ashes triumph the pinnacle. On a sad day for England followers, here is a look back at five highlights spanning Vaughan's innings as England skipper:

1. Vaughan's debut vs South Africa, Johannesberg, 1999. In a disastrous England first innings, Vaughan kept his head to make 33 from 119 balls in an innings total of 122.  Vaughan, batting fourth, saw Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart depart before even facing a ball as England were reduced to a humiliating 2-4.

Even listening via radio the tension was tangible, and with Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock tearing in the already ecstatic Wanderers crowd were baying for the young blood of Vaughan and partner Chris Adams. But they stood firm and steered England to 34-4 before Adams succumbed.

The innings highest partnership then ensued as one Andrew Flintoff joined Vaughan's vigil. England were 90-6 when Vaughan fell, and despite the inevitable defeat, the steel of Vaughan was truly forged.

2. The 2002/2003 Ashes series. During a (sadly typical) routing of England in Australia, Vaughan racked up three scintillating centuries. It was here that he established himself as a world class batsman and was the only Pom the Antipodean bowlers truly feared.

The innings were beautifully flowing, full of Vaughan's favourite cover drives and legside flicks. His highest score of 183 was crucial in securing England's only triumph of the series in the new year test at Sydney, finally giving some cheer to the faithful of the Barmy Army.

3. Vaughan handed captaincy in 2003. Vaughan first took charge against South Africa at Lords in 2003, the second test of a five-match series. Not a boisterous presence on the field, there was a sense of the unknown as he donned the armband.

A vital 156 in the first test aside, Vaughan had a poor series with the bat, but in his first assignment as captain he guided underdogs England to a thrilling 2-2 series draw.

4. England win in South Africa 2004/2005. England's two previous tours to South Africa were fairly disastrous affairs, but four years ago Vaughan led his men to a tremendous 2-1 series victory that firmly established England as the world's number two test outfit.

The fourth game at the Wanderers (England's first visit there since Vaughan's debut in 1999) was the decisive contest and one of England's greatest triumphs in living memory.

A strong England first innings of 411 (Vaughan contributing 82) was surpassed as the Proteas posted 419. England racked up a quickfire second innings 322-9dec (Marcus Trescothick top scoring with 180) to set South Africa 325 to win.

The top order crumbled under Matthew Hoggard's swing, but an injured Graeme Smith came in at eight an looked to have saved the match, now late in its fifth day. But after Flintoff dismissed Pollock and Ntini, Hoggard came back in the dying overs and forced Dale Steyn to edge a catch to keeper Geraint Jones, provoking ecstatic celebrations from the England team and fans.

5. England win the Ashes 2005. There is an unwritten rule in cricket that whatever victories an England side may achieve, they won't be considered a 'great' team unless they can defeat Australia in cricket's premier contest, the Ashes.

In 2005 Vaughan led England to this prize for the first time in 18 years.

The story of the famous series is known to most, with a sequence of epic tests at Edgbaston, Old Trafford, and Trent Bridge producing many magic moments. England were 2-1 up going into the final test at The Oval, and held out for a draw to take the series.

It was the summer that test cricket recaptured the imagination of the British public, transformed from a minority interest into a mainstream obsession. The quality of the matches were notable, as was Vaughan's clever and cool-headed captaincy in high pressure situations.

Considering these above achievements, there is a touch of irony that South Africa have bought about Vaughan's resignation decision. It has undoubtedly been a frustrating series for England fans to watch, as lazy shots and a fairly blunt bowling attack have arguably cost victories at Lords and Edgbaston.

Major changes to the dynamic of the team do need to occur. Yet it was the suddenness of Vaughan's (tearful) announcement that has caused the shock. It is true that England did not press on to become a world dominating team after defeating Australia in 2005, suffering dismal losses in Australia (2006) and Sri Lanka (2007) and perplexing ones at home to India (2007) and South Africa (2008).

Somehow, though, one still thought Vaughan's experience and acknowledge tactical brilliance had something to offer England's future. But it is not to be.

Thoughts will inveitably turn to his replacement and there will be plenty of time and space to debate this issue. But I encourage cricket fans to first spend some moments reflecting on the achievements of Michael Vaughan and giving him the credit he deserves for a remarkable tenure as England captain.

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