Vaughan quite upset, naturally

The Ashes series comes to England in 2009 and Vaughan may be ready to lead his side to another win, whatever the result of the Test series next winter, writes TED CORBETT.

June 26: Oh, what a shame. The Australian footballers have all the bad luck as they lose 1-0 to Italy in the World Cup. As a mark of the sadness felt by every fair-minded Englishman, it rains all day long and completely spoils the start of Wimbledon. You cannot imagine the grief that overcomes us all; especially because there is some doubt about the validity of the penalty that brings Italy the only goal of the match; we are inconsolable. We camouflage our tears by laughing out loud and holding our sides, but believe me our hearts are heavy. Especially, as the ticket allocation for England fans who wish to see the Ashes series is blatantly unfair. Most of those tickets go to Australians who lose no time in putting them on various internet sites at a wide margin of profit. Barmy Army fans, who make regular trips to Australia over the last 12 years when there is no hope of England winning the Ashes, are furious. They see the tour of Australia as being a cheap way of going abroad every winter and substituting sunburn for frostbite and, of course, this one may result in an England victory. There is another way of looking at it. As Ashley Giles follows Simon Jones across the Atlantic in the hope of a cure for his injuries, as the medical team looking at Michael Vaughan's knee dithers before issuing a statement and Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood join the list of limp and lame, the chances of a victory in any competition seem remote.

June 27: On the road to Manchester where all the talk is of the good old days, although this city grows up considerably in the 20 years. Their special cricketing hero is Brian Statham. David Lloyd remembers him. "I'm just a wide-eyed kid at the time but my special memory of George — that's what we call him although no-one seems quite sure why — is in the early days of the season. He comes down to the first nets and just spends an hour chatting away. He's been on tour all winter so he does not need much in the way of training. Then someone will say `You going to have a bowl then, George' and he will peel off his sweater. Just reach over his shoulder with that double-jointed right arm of his and pull the sweater up over his back from the bottom and pull it up over his head. I know we all think of Murali as being double-jointed but Statham, well, he was something else."

June 28: Colin Evans, a reporter pal for longer than I can remember, finishes his career on the road that joins county cricket together, and settles down as a public relations officer for Lancashire. That's not a strain although wearing a smart blazer, a white shirt, a tie and a pair of neatly pressed trousers, rather than the jeans and tee shirt of his former life test his will power more than somewhat. Colin keeps himself fit by jogging and one afternoon decides he has a few minutes to spare and sets off on a four-mile run. Somewhere along the way he trips and falls flat on his face. "I'm not sure if I am knocked out, but the next thing I know there is a voice in my ear shouting `I'm a nurse, say something to me.' Colin thinks he is in hospital for a few seconds before this kindly lady who just happens to be nearby, gives him a lift back to Old Trafford. "I go into the ground covered in blood with a bump the size of a unicorn's horn on my forehead and the players burst out laughing. Worst of all, they are still laughing every time they see me."

June 29: Michael Vaughan's advisers decide he needs another operation on his knee. It will keep him on the sidelines at least until the start of the Ashes series which is the worst blow England can receive since he is the brains as well as the run-scoring power in their side. He is said to be — aged 31 and not surprisingly — in a deep depression about the state of his fitness. But 70 years ago another Yorkshire opening batsman and Test captain has a similar accident and recovers so well he keeps his status as England's greatest leader and one of their finest openers. Len Hutton, aged 26, breaks his arm demonstrating gym work while he is a fitness instructor in the Army and needs the rest of the war to recover and change his technique to suit the fact that his left arm is now shorter. Perhaps Vaughan can find encouragement in that story and, by the time the next home Ashes series comes along in 2009, he may be ready to lead his side to another win, whatever the result of the Test next winter.

June 30: I have no dispute with Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, but when I wish him a very civil good morning at breakfast he responds with such a frozen face that he must suspect I alone am responsible for the injuries to his stricken team. But that is his way. Underneath there is, so I hear, a jolly fellow who loves a practical joke and has a fund of good stories from his own days as a player in Zimbabwe. I also suspect that, for all he never reveals his thoughts to anyone, he must be in sympathy with Sven-Goran Eriksson., coach of the England World Cup team. Eriksson is under pressure because of what he calls "ugly football" even though his team are in the quarter-finals without losing a match. How much longer before Fletcher is hauled in front of the media court because his players fail to live up to expectations. Not long, I suspect.

July 1: My phone rings at precisely 1.20. "Ted, it's Veronica Trueman. I'm just here to tell you Fred dies an hour ago." The rest of the day passes in a blur of obituary, of sadness about a man I first meet in 1963, of questions from those who don't know him quite as well, of trying to find the right words to express his greatness as a fast bowler in an age when English cricket is still recovering from the Second World War, of interviewing Brian Close, Trueman's captain and listening to Geoff Boycott who is, despite a bitter dispute lasting almost 20 years, Trueman's greatest admirer.

July 2: Veronica Trueman is at home with her son and daughter, making arrangements for a funeral in the most beautiful part of the Yorkshire Dales. "Thank you, Veronica. If only all my contacts call me as promptly; particularly when life is at its most difficult." Trueman was not a great admirer of foreign cricketers which may explain my fondest memory of him. One morning he rings, quite unexpectedly, and says: "Hey, I've just been watching that Curtly Ambrose. He can bowl, you know." Given all the circumstances Curtly will never receive a greater compliment.