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Vaughan inspires a new generation

By Stephan Shemilt

Michael Vaughan lifts the Ashes
England's Ashes win of 2005 came after long period of disappointment

By the time I turned 14 , England's cricketers had not given me much to cheer about. Little did I know, things were to get worse.

By the end of the summer of 1999 we had been knocked out in the first round of a World Cup held in this country, and defeated in the Test series by New Zealand to confirm our place as the worst side in world cricket.

However, salvation was at hand. Of course, when Michael Vaughan faced up to his first ball in international cricket with England 2-4 at Johannesburg later that year, I did not know that redemption would come in the form of a Manchester-born Yorkshireman with a floppy side-parting.

It is no coincidence that England's rise from worst team in the world to Ashes winners directly mirrored Vaughan's career. It is not my place to heap superlatives on his batting or captaincy, but I can try and express what Vaughan means to cricket fans, particularly those under the age of 30.

I grew up hearing the names of English players who had triumphed over Australia - Botham, Gower, Brearley, Willis, etc. I have never seen one of these men play, apart from on old videos.

Vaughan changed all of this. Firstly, by gaining personal success on the Ashes tour of 2002/03. Pulling and driving his way to over 600 runs in the series while the others failed around him, Vaughan gained the respect of Steve Waugh's men and briefly became the number one batsman in the world.

After becoming Test captain later in 2003, Vaughan took his experience of personal triumph against the Aussies and passed it on to his team. The Ashes series of 2005 will never be forgotten by those who saw it.

Poor form prompted Vaughan to retire

The image of Vaughan kissing the urn at The Oval will forever be etched on the soul of English cricket. Six years after being the worst team in the world, England had beaten Australia. A generation of fans were rewarded for a decade of mediocrity.

"The Ashes of 2005 was very, very special, but maybe the build-up was more special," said Vaughan.

"We were fortunate, not only to win the series, but to capture the imagination of the nation. Cricket hadn't done that for a long, long time."

Of course, fate, and his knee, transpired against him. Vaughan was robbed of another chance to take on the Aussies and has been largely a peripheral figure as England slipped from the zenith of the 2005 series to the transitional side we see today.

"There's no unfinished business," he said. "It was always going to be a long shot to get back in.

"I had great opportunities and those who are in the team now should have the confidence to go out and express themselves."

Maybe to some, winning the Ashes once would have been a consolation for this. But anyone who witnessed the emotional press conference when Vaughan resigned the captaincy last summer saw the desire that burns inside the man.

I would like to be remembered as a player who was nice to watch, who wanted his players to enjoy their cricket

Michael Vaughan

It was hard to watch someone giving up the one thing they had worked all of their life for, but for the umpteen amateur cricketers who can only dream of touching the heights Vaughan has reached, it was satisfying to see the emotion. For that moment he became one of us and we shared his pain. Other sportsmen should take note.

Anyone who has seen Vaughan play will already have their own memories formed, because now that is all we have left.

For me it is the sunhat, the fielding that lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous, that ball to bowl out Sachin Tendulkar in 2002, the running jump into Andrew Flintoff's arms after winning the second Test at Edgbaston in 2005, the emotional hundred on his comeback at Headingley in 2007 and a cover drive that would make grown men weak at the knees (no pun intended).

"I would like to be remembered as a player who was nice to watch, who captained with an instinctive nature and wanted his players to enjoy their cricket," said Vaughan.

No problem there. Thanks for the memories.



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see also
Ashes hero Vaughan calls it quits
30 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Reaction to Vaughan's retirement
30 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Michael Vaughan's career in photos
30 Jun 09 |  Cricket
England omit Vaughan and Harmison
22 Jun 09 |  England
Vaughan handed England contract
09 Sep 08 |  England
Vaughan's resignation shocks game
04 Aug 08 |  England
Vaughan quits as England captain
04 Aug 08 |  England
Vaughan undergoes knee operation
03 Jul 06 |  England
Vaughan quits as one-day skipper
18 Jun 07 |  England
Ashes captain given city honour
16 Sep 05 |  South Yorkshire
Triumphant England reclaim Ashes
12 Sep 05 |  England
Vaughan on top of the world
14 Apr 03 |  Cricket


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