August 13, 2007

A disappointment but few regrets

Michael Vaughan had to suffer his first home series loss as captain but admitted that his side lost to a better team

Michael Vaughan: "There are series that you lose where you know you've played really bad cricket, and there are series like this one where you think you haven't played that badly" © Getty Images

It's been an emotional summer for Michael Vaughan. His elation at battling back to Test cricket after an 18-month absence has now given way to disappointment at the first home series defeat of his four-year captaincy career. After the Oval Test petered out to a draw he was content to concede that his conquerors, India, had been fully deserving of their first series win in England for 21 years.

"It's disappointing to lose," said Vaughan. "There are series that you lose where you know you've played really bad cricket, and there are series like this one where you think you haven't played that badly. But in a three-match series, the team that plays better cricket wins, and the way India played the last two games, they picked the series."

It could have been so different for England had the weather relented in the first Test at Lord's, and had they been given the chance to chisel out the last remaining Indian wicket. But Vaughan refused to dwell on that missed opportunity, and preferred instead to praise his opponents, particularly the bowling attack led by Zaheer Khan.

"We've been up against a very good Indian team," said Vaughan. "We've been asked different questions against the left-arm angles which we haven't seen before, while our bowlers were up against some of the best batsmen to have played the game. With these kind of experiences, it's important you learn from them and the mistakes you make when you lose. We have to make plans to get our Test cricket back to winning ways in Sri Lanka."

By the time England set off for Sri Lanka on November 17, several of their injured stars - particularly Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard - should be fit and ready to resume the fight, and Vaughan admitted he was looking forward to having his old comrades to call upon. "I'd like to have all the senior bowlers back for selection," he said. "They have invaluable experience at this kind of level."

"The team's revolving again, and there are a lot of new faces," said Vaughan. "I think you've got to give some of the guys experience. The series has been a really good learning curve for the team because we've been put under a lot of pressure. Our young bowlers have been asked to bowl at some of the best batsmen in the world, and if you'd said Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman wouldn't get a hundred I'd probably have ripped your hand off. Yes, we've lost 1-0 but that's exactly what happened, so all the bowlers deserve credit."

Vaughan was also proud of the way his team fought to the finish at The Oval, despite conceding a massive total of 664. "Over the last two days here, I hope people have seen that England are prepared to fight," he said. "We are going through a little bit of a transitional phase with lot of new players, and it was important we came through this. Today was a big moment to show character and fight and we've done that.

"Yesterday morning, we set the guys a challenge," said Vaughan. "'If you can't win the game, you've to draw it'. We said we'd try and show character, try and occupy the crease. If we've got an unbelievable start who knows [what we'd have attempted], but we set our sights for a draw and Kevin's innings was tremendous in the circumstances."

As for the criticism surrounding Rahul Dravid's decision not to enforce the follow-on, Vaughan was adamant in his support. "If I'd have been in his position I'd have done exactly the same," he said. Some series wins are simply that important.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo