Michael Vaughan, the man who led England to more Test victories than any other captain, is expected to announce his retirement from all cricket this week. A press conference has been scheduled for 11.30am at Edgbaston on Tuesday, at which it is widely anticipated that he will call time on his 16-year first-class career.
Vaughan has struggled with injuries to his right knee which kept him out of cricket for over a year between November 2005 and May 2007. In January, he withdrew from the IPL auction to concentrate on getting back into the Test side in time for the Ashes, but still lost out on a place in the 16-man pre-Ashes squad.
It had been speculated that Vaughan's final appearance for Yorkshire would take place in Sunday's Twenty20 Cup fixture against Derbyshire at Headingley, but he was omitted from the starting line-up for that match. According to Stewart Regan, Yorkshire's chief executive, any official announcement is on hold until Vaughan has met with the ECB, to whom he is still centrally contracted.
"There is a meeting between Michael and the ECB scheduled for tomorrow, and after that it will be up to the ECB to make any formal announcement," Regan told Cricinfo. "Michael has obviously not been selected in the squad today, his place has been taken by Anthony McGrath, and we are very much concentrating on what is a very important game for Yorkshire."
Vaughan, 34, captained England in 51 of his 82 Tests, and won a record 26 of these, including most famously the two matches that enabled England to regain the Ashes in 2005. But he hasn't played international cricket since stepping down from the captaincy during the home series against South Africa last year, and this season he has made only 159 runs at 19.88 for Yorkshire. The last time he scored a century in a competitive match was for Yorkshire in a 50-over game against Surrey in Abu Dhabi this March.
Aside from the growing acceptance that he will never play international cricket again, not least since Ravi Bopara burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season to nail down the No. 3 slot, Vaughan is believed to be wary of hampering the opportunities of young talent at Yorkshire - among them Jonathan Bairstow, the 19-year-old son of the former England wicketkeeper, David, who made his debut this season.
"If Vaughan really is packing it in I can understand his decision, though it's a sad day for all of us who played in 2005," Steve Harmison told The Mail on Sunday. "He was a great leader on the field. He knew how to get the best out of me, by telling me I was the best bowler in the world. Maybe he was lying, maybe it was kidology but he knew how to press the buttons and we all wanted to play for him."
Vaughan scored three centuries out of a tally of 633 runs in the 2002-03 Ashes that preceded his 2005 triumph, and was one of the few English cricketers whom Australia hold in the highest regard. "I was slightly shocked about Vaughan not getting the inclusion [in the current Ashes squad]," said Brett Lee last week, "more so from what he's done against us in the past, he's got the utmost respect from all our players."
If, as expected, he does call it quits this week, the timing of Vaughan's retirement will serve to spare the current Ashes team endless speculation about his chances of a recall, should early results against Australia go against them. One of his finest achievements as captain was to shield the side against panic in 2005, after a heavy defeat in the first Test at Lord's. The same side was retained for each of the first four matches of the series.
Vaughan is highly likely to remain close to the action this summer, however, as he is sure to be welcomed straight into the Sky commentary box, alongside his former team-mates and fellow England captains, Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain, and his most formidable Ashes foe, Shane Warne.