England and one-day cricket September 2, 2004

Vaughan's polarised performances

Yesterday, Michael Vaughan was elected to a very select club, as he became only the 17th player to represent England in 50 Tests and 50 one-day internationals

Michael Vaughan: failing to impose himself as a one-day player © Getty Images

Yesterday, Michael Vaughan joined a very select club, as he became only the 17th player to represent England in 50 Tests and 50 one-day internationals. In doing so, he emulated such modern-day heroes as Graham Gooch, David Gower and Darren Gough, and left a host of other English stalwarts trailing in his wake, among them Angus Fraser and Jack Russell.

And yet, aside from the match result, there was little for Vaughan to celebrate. He marked his feat with a seventh-ball duck, which was entirely in keeping with a one-day career that simply refuses to come to fruition. He has now managed a magnificent 3777 runs at 45.50 in 50 Tests, but a meagre 1035 at 23.52 in exactly the same number of one-dayers. That average is bettered by, among others, Kenya's pair of Hitesh Modi and Kennedy Otieno.

Not since Michael Bevan has there been such a high-profile discrepancy between excellence in one form of the game and inadequacy in another - and Bevan was given just 18 matches (at 29.07) in which to demonstrate his aptitude (or otherwise) for Test cricket. In the week that Duncan Fletcher riled the purists by calling for more one-day cricket at the expense of Tests, he might inadvertently have called for his captain's (one-day) head on a platter.

Accidents can single out any batsman, and Vaughan did receive the ball of the match at Trent Bridge - a late-swinging jaffa from Lakshmipathy Balaji that barely dislodged the off bail on its way through to the keeper - but to average 23.52 over the course of a half-century of internationals is ... well, not even average.

His record certainly pales in comparison with England's other 16 members of the half-century club. As might be expected, the majority of the names are fellow batsmen, but no-one's figures are remotely as poor as Vaughan's current average. Michael Atherton, who was viewed with suspicion in one-day cricket, still managed an impressive 35.11 in his 54 matches, while the worst of the rest was poor old Nasser Hussain (30.28), and we all know what brickbats he attracted. Of the recognised bat-swingers, only Ian Botham (23.21) averages less than Vaughan, but then he does have 145 wickets with which to balance his books.

Michael Slater: too impulsive for the closeted environment of one-day cricket © Getty Images

In fact, Vaughan is rapidly becoming the one-day equivalent of Mike Brearley, a much-admired captain who battled with accusations of inadequacy throughout his reign. There is one distinct difference, of course, and that is that Brearley had the Midas Touch, and Vaughan does not - at least, not in this form of the game at any rate.

Even so, their stats bear a certain similarity - Brearley averaged 22.88 in 39 Tests (and 24.28 in 25 ODIs), with a top score of 91 to Vaughan's 83, and nine fifties to Vaughan's seven. It is only their respective strike rates that are markedly different - even if you allow for the increased tempo of the modern game, it is clear that Brearley (29.79 in Tests and 45.53 in ODIs) was the inferior strokemaker. And yet, given that England have been bowled out for 88, 147 and 101 in three of their most recent defeats, there could be a case for a little more of the tortoise to Vaughan's approach.

Much the same could have been said of Michael Slater - a gorgeous strokemaker in Test cricket, who simply did not cut the mustard in the one-day game. In 42 games, he averaged 24.07 with an unredemptive strike rate of 60.40, and Australia lost patience with him a full four years before his Test career was brought to an equally premature end. Like Vaughan, Slater's liberated approach to Test cricket translated as impulsiveness in one-day cricket's closeted environment - and his judgment and shot-selection probably suffered as a result.

No-one could for one minute argue that Vaughan should be replaced as England's Test captain. But, even allowing for Wednesday's heartening performance against India, the prospect of renewed embarrassment in the forthcoming Champions Trophy is all too real - and if Vaughan can't turn himself into part of the solution, then presumably he must be part of the problem.

Amid the euphoria of Great Britain's homecoming from the Athens Olympics, the chief of the British Olympic Association, Simon Clegg, was allowed to assert - without fear of contradiction - that "Britain's dismal summer of sport was at an end". Was there really no-one paying attention during the Test series? It would appear not. Everyone will sit up and take notice in the coming weeks, however, if England's one-day performances unravel in the way we all know they can.

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. His English View will appear here every Thursday.