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July 24, 2005
Michael Vaughan vowed that England would bounce back from their ignominious 239-run defeat in the first Test at Lord's, but Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting, and his Man of the Match, Glenn McGrath, were both scenting blood as they faced the media after the decisive fourth day.
"Of course we're disappointed, we're 1-0 down in an Ashes series," admitted Vaughan, "but we've lifted ourselves after a defeat in the past, and we don't suddenly become a bad team overnight. At 100 for 3 in their second innings we had an opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but we didn't and that became the story of the game.
"Out batting wasn't good enough," conceded Vaughan. "The ball was nibbling around and McGrath bowled superbly, as did Shane Warne and Brett Lee, but to be bowled out twice for under 200 is not good enough. On the first two days we were in a contest, but on Saturday and today we didn't handle the pressure as well as they did."
Vaughan himself admitted that his own form was part of the problem. In the corresponding series two years ago, Vaughan sparkled his way to 633 runs including three big hundreds, but this time around he was bowled twice for a total of seven runs.
"I've batted at No. 3 and got 3 and 4 and that's not good enough," he said. "Against Australia your No. 3 has got to get runs and I didn't get them in this match. All we can do is go away and work at our games, because only yourself knows the areas you need to work on, only yourself knows how you are thinking at stages of the game. No-one else can do that for you. But I've been in this position before and I'll come through it."
Ponting, unsurprisingly, took a different view, suggesting that McGrath had taken a psychological hold over England's captain. "I don't think he likes facing him, to tell you the truth," said Ponting. "In the one-dayers I had that feeling, and I think I can see Glenn bowling a lot more to Vaughan as the summer goes on."
"If you get on top of the captain then it can have an effect on the rest of the team," added McGrath, who knows a thing or two about such matters, having destroyed Mike Atherton's confidence on his first Ashes tour in 1997. "It was how the West Indies teams of the mid-1980s used to play, and it's how we've played as well.
"It's not Vaughan's technique, it's his confidence," he continued. "You don't lose your technique overnight, but he's got a bit of work to do now. I enjoyed bowling to him in the last series as well. I didn't have to target him then, because he announced he was coming after me, but he wasn't captain then."
Despite his disappointment, Vaughan was determined to look at the positive aspects of England's play, and he singled out Kevin Pietersen's performances, as he became the eighth England batsman to make two fifties on debut. "It's a huge positive," Vaughan enthused. "It's hard to bat well when you've dropped catches, but that just tells you the attitude and positive outlook he brings to his game."
Even so, that dread issue of England's fielding was not about to be brushed aside. "They made a lot of mistakes at crucial times," Ponting emphasised. "The Clarke catch was one of them, and overall they dropped about seven or eight. That sort of thing has happened at the start of previous Ashes Tests as well."
"I wouldn't say we've destroyed their confidence, but we've gone some way towards doing that," added Ponting. "They are better and stronger than in previous years and have proved in the past year that they are a quality side, and we are sure they can bounce back and improve. But, apart from a few areas in the batting, we don't really need to improve, just carry on the same brand of cricket from here on, because it went pretty good in this Test."
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?