Nasser Hussain was not flinging idle praise around when he termed Michael Vaughan's 197 one of the best innings he had ever seen from the blade of an English bat. The classical opener's highest firstclass score was quite definitely an innings that would done the best of his tribe proud.
Michael Vaughan against all bowlers - England 1st innings at Trent Bridge CricInfo
Vaughan's shot selection on the day he held everybody in thrall was admirable, with his driving off the back foot in particular being of such a high order that former England all-rounder Vic Marks was moved to liken it to that of the great Peter May.
The Yorkshireman was helped in no small measure by the Indian bowlers, who played a significant part in the transformation of the 27-yearold, whom many had previously marked as the ideal replacement for another Michael - the very correct and very stodgy Atherton - into a batsman who tore the opposing attack to shreds.
Pitching short and spraying the ball everywhere, India's bowlers helped the England opener feel at home immediately upon his arrival at the crease. High on confidence after his hundred in the England second innings at Lord's, Vaughan was not in the mood to miss out on such easy pickings.
With dozens of short-of-a-length deliveries on offer, the region between point and third man naturally proved a productive one, yielding as many as 43 runs. Another area that provided runs by the bucketful was mid-wicket, where Vaughan creamed as many as 44 through fine back-foot pulls and front-foot drives. It is also telling that only 20 runs out of 197 - a measly 10.15 % - came in the vee between mid-off and mid-on. On that Trent Bridge wicket, India should have been pitching the ball up much further, allowing it to swing and use the juice in the wicket. If Vaughan had made 197 with the bowlers sticking to the appropriate length, many more runs would have come off straight drives.
Michael Vaughan against Harbhajan Singh - England 1st innings at Trent Bridge CricInfo
The sole variety in the Indian attack - Harbhajan Singh - was countered by either staying on the back foot and playing the fine flick, or by sweeping. The pitch afforded only slow turn, enabling Vaughan to play the offie on the back foot, something not normally advised on more vicious tracks. Harbhajan Singh only helped that tactic along by constantly drifting to leg, unable to bowl the classic off-spinner's line just outside the off. The success of Vaughan's strategy is best represented by the fact that he scored 27 runs in the fine-leg region and 11 runs to the square-leg against the Harbhajan.
Harbhajan also made another fundamental error, not only against Vaughan but against the rest as well. Not once did he succeed in flighting the ball and luring Vaughan into the expansive drive. Ironically enough, then, it was Vaughan who, in India's second innings, reminded everybody of the efficacy of that classic offspinner's tactic. The ball with which he brought about Sachin Tendulkar's downfall was exactly the kind that Harbhajan himself should been attempting.