Australia in England / Features

England v Australia, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day

A captain's trot

Michael Vaughan is suffering from a run of poor form much like Nasser Hussain

Andrew McGlashan

August 6, 2005

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Michael Vaughan heard the clatter of timber again © Getty Images
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Michael Vaughan is following in the footsteps of Nasser Hussain by suffering a poor run of form as England captain, but without anyone calling for his head. Although Vaughan's trot is not quite as grotesque as the horror period Hussain suffered in 2000-01, when it was truly painful to watch him bat, the current captain is heading back to the pavilion too soon for his liking.

When Vaughan's stumps were rearranged in the second innings at Edgbaston - for the third time in this series - it meant he had faced a total of 89 balls in four innings for 32 runs in the two Tests. But Vaughan has not been himself for a considerable period of time, in fact since he took over as captain, which then turned into England's run of success. Only briefly has he recaptured the flowing strokeplay that graced Australia on the 2002-03 tour - his twin hundreds in the Lord's Test against West Indies in 2004 was as close as he as come to recapturing his best form.

However, at no point has anyone been calling for the captain's head, it obviously helps that England have been successful of late, and Hussain was given the same vote of confidence. When Hussain couldn't buy a run - from the start of the 2000 season until he ground his way to a hundred against Sri Lanka at Kandy in 2000-01 - he was always the best man to captain England. He was bringing improved results, with wins over West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Both Vaughan and Hussain have captained England during an era when the team performance is the ultimate goal and the captain is someone who builds a team ethos, holding it together through the tougher times. Compare that to the years when Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton led England. Captains and players were looking over their shoulders to make sure their name was on the next teamsheet. When Atherton suffered his poor form as captain - especially on the Zimbabwean tour of 1996-97 - there was a call for him to step down and be replaced as batsmen and captain. Atherton's stubborn character got him through but it would not happen nowadays.

While Vaughan and Hussain have experienced slumps as captain the style of them is significantly different. Vaughan still unleashes the occasionally mouth-watering shot, be it his cover-drive or pull, whereas Hussain almost lost the ability to clear the infield. There is still the feeling that Vaughan is just one knock away from a decent score but with Hussain it was hard to see an end to the torture.

If there was a dodgy umpiring decision lurking, Hussain would find it and Vaughan is doing the same with attracting straight balls. Three times now in this series he has been castled without getting bat on ball, a worrying development for a high quality batsmen. Curiously, however, Hussain wasn't bowled once during his lean period. But, at the end of the day, it's the results that matter. After all, Mike Brearley masterminded three Ashes victories in 1977, 1978-79 and 1981 but averaged only 19.72 in those series.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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