Vaughan and Caddick take the spotlight

Published : Jan 18, 2003 00:00 IST


The first two days of the emotional Sydney Test belonged to Steve Waugh; the rest was England's and in particular Michael Vaughan's.

The detail of Waugh's wonderful day appears in the Cover Story, rightly given prominent treatment as the most theatrical and historic of cricket moments; but for the man of taste, for the cricket lover and the sports follower with an eye to the future, it was Vaughan's batting that held centre stage.

''I'm a huge fan,'' said the umpire Barry Dudleston, once an opening batsman with Leicestershire on the fringe of the England side, now travel agent in the winter and county umpire in the summer. He sees the best of English batting and bowling at close quarters for half the year and the finest overseas players in our winter. With a critical but kindly eye.

''I have known for a long time that he is potentially a great batsman and in the last 12 months he has proved himself. It is a pleasure to watch a batsman who is so correct but who at the same time will dare to unleash blinding attacking shots against good length bowling.

''It is because he comes from Yorkshire where they are taught to play correctly. Go back to Len Hutton and Frank Lowson — and Vaughan is a cross between those two — to Geoff Boycott and Martyn Moxon and now Vaughan and even Craig White.

''They all play with good technique so that when they can cope with the vagaries of the Headingley pitch which is difficult day-in day-out. When they get on what are batsmen's pitches in Tests and in Australia that technique brings them plenty of runs. As for Vaughan he is special and with a lot more runs ahead.''

Those sentiments were echoed by Nasser Hussain and Waugh; but I don't need to quote any more authorities to prove that Vaughan is a master of his craft. The day after the Test he held the highest position in the Price Waterhouse rankings by an England batsman since Graham Gooch ten years ago and people were beginning to talk about him as the finest England had produced since Hutton and Peter May.

Now that is praise since in his own days Hutton was the yardstick by which all England cricketers were measured. ''What would Leonard do?'' Test and county players of that era would ask in difficult conditions. Colin Cowdrey remembered going to seek his advice. ''If you get in and make some runs make sure you don't get out,'' came the answer.

The next day Cowdrey watched while the master obeyed his own dictum to a century and then, apparently bored, hoisted the ball high for an easy catch. ''I thought you said. . .'' he questioned challengingly when they met. ''Another bit of advice, lad,'' said Hutton. ''Do what I say, not what I do.''

Vaughan will not, I promise, become bored with run-scoring very easily. He is, in the best Boycott tradition, a greedy batsman wanting to turn a century into 150 and 150 into 200, a figure that will come in some Test soon and which might lead him to a very large score indeed.

He has also, as Hussain and Waugh noted, a fine temperament. He made nought in the first innings, but once he had avoided a pair in the second with a scampered run that might have brought him a second duck, he was as assured as if he knew a big score was in the offing.

Three days later Vaughan was named not just Man of the Match but Man of the Series too, making the sort of neat speech he will be called on to make if ever he is appointed captain. Some think he should be given that job immediately.

Hussain disagrees and not just because it might mean he has to step down. ''Just because he has made a few runs doesn't mean he ought to be captain,'' he said. "There are other lads in the dressing room'' — he means Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher — ''who will be in line. But I believe that one day he will be a fine England captain.''

There is a steel in the backbone of Vaughan that often goes unnoticed by the sort of people who were describing him as ''too soft to play Test cricket'' a few years ago.

Now that lie has been scotched by the Australians who began this tour by trying to sledge him, realised it did not work and who now treat him with a respect close to reverence. They gave Gooch and David Gower the same respect; Sachin achieved it at the age of 18; but few others have made the Aussies drop one of their favourite ploys.

It is a sign Vaughan has stepped on to the highest plane.

I wish I could write the same about the umpiring, although it was indiscriminate and the only charge against Dave Orchard and Russell Tiffin is that they were inefficient. Vaughan got a poor decision at 183; only Ricky Ponting of the first four Australian second innings batsmen was unquestionably out.

It is not good enough for cricket at the highest level. We must have a change that will stop the umpires looking foolish and which will, preferably, allow them to make the right decisions. The very image of the game is in question round the world. It must stop.

The sight of Orchard shrugging his shoulders, spreading his hands helplessly and saying he had heard nothing after an appeal for a catch at the wicket, brought it all out into the open. If we can put a man on the moon, hope to cure the worst diseases and feed the starving millions surely we can find a way of getting the right decisions in a pastime like cricket without going back to the medieval days and trusting umpires' ears and eyes.

Against the background of the Barmy Army singing, or a full house in Chennai, or Concorde flying over Lord's the umpire's job is difficult. Add a fielding side determined to appeal for everything, batsmen who practice their stone-faced look in the mirror every night and bowlers who do not even look round when they claim a catch . . . and umpiring turns into a nightmare.

Once again I call on ICC to get together the best thinkers, to consult the finest scientists and offer cash to the most up-to-date engineers to find a way forward. Players are suffering for the umpires' mistakes in two senses. They are often denied their rights and when they protest they are fined.

Where is that natural justice in that?

England owed their comfortable first innings to Mark Butcher who made a long century — and not before time; to Hussain who once again in this match displayed courage and determination and a sense of humour; and to Alec Stewart who has been sickened by the Press back home constantly demanding that he is replaced.

By the end of the second day this match has gone to Waugh; but once again Hussain deserves praise for his field setting on that final ball. With Waugh wanting two for his hundred Hussain refused to place a purely defensive field which gave Waugh the chance to swerve his shot round cover to the boundary.

A blitz of an innings from Adam Gilchrist — 133 off 121 balls tells its own story — meant the Australians had a one-run lead and Vaughan's third big hundred in four Tests, plus another fifty from Hussain and more calculated runs from Stewart, pushing his Test average above 40, gave England their highest total of the series at 452. Australia had just a faint hope of victory and a 5-0 whitewash.

A combination of bad umpiring and superb bowling from Andrew Caddick who hauled in ten wickets in a match for the first time in a long career meant that the fifth day was a formality, the match over shortly after lunch and a record crowd sent home satisfied with the quality of the cricket they had seen.

Once again I had to listen to an England captain promise that things would be different next time; once again I wondered if that could ever be possible.

Australia, with their pyramid system of district, state and Test teams have the structure in place to produce great players. It is a fabulous career for an Australian boy when he leaves school; in England football is the draw card with its huge wages and, if that sort of glory appeals, the certainty that you will find a daily mention in the tabloids.

How can any organisation switch that around? Not easily.

England might start by looking for an Australian coach who is not hidebound, not determined to stay within strict guidelines, not certain that the old ways are best.

But the status of the two sides cannot be reversed quickly unless the Australians slip — and there are signs their facade is crumbling — or England find a new Botham, a helpmate in the same class as Vaughan, or a replacement for Darren Gough.

Where is he? You may well ask. He is almost certainly playing for Arsenal, Manchester United or Liverpool. Just a misguided kid who prefers to earn 40,000 pounds rather than sweat it out on the playing fields Down Under.

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