Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Not Michael Vaughan...

Earlier today, Afghanistan went through with a whimper to the Super Eight phase, after losing to the UAE by 5 wickets and seeing Bermuda beaten by the Dutch. They will start that phase from the bottom of the table and it is, alas, hard to see them making a great deal of movement from that position, with the ruthless Irish side awaiting them on Saturday and the second-placed Canadians on Monday.

Nonetheless, the World Cup Qualifiers have provided a welcome distraction from the movement of Michael Vaughan towards the forefront of media speculation ahead of this summer's home test series against West Indies and Australia. The traditional English season-opener between the MCC and the champion county, Durham, starts tomorrow, with attention focusing on the battle between MCC batsmen Ian Bell, Vaughan and Rob Key for the number 3 berth that Owais Shah failed to make his own in the West Indies.

Even the eminently sensible Lawrence Booth, one of the very best cricket writers around, has put the case for Vaughan's reinstatement, arguing that "England tend not to beat Australia by playing it safe." Certainly Andrew Strauss would be well-advised to take note of the importance of risk-taking - he has historically been ultra-conservative in setting a total, whether sending in James Anderson as nightwatchman against the West Indies this year or pressing on to his own century against Pakistan in 2006, and cannot afford to pass up any comparable opportunity to force the game against the Aussies - but this argument surely cannot be made to pick a man who has scored only 2 Test centuries in his last 17 matches. Booth may have a certain claim to authority, having been a firm advocate of Kevin Pietersen before the 2005 series, but Pietersen had just taken a one-day series against South Africa unprecedentedly by storm, whilst Vaughan has scored one century against Surrey in a pre-season tournament in Abu Dhabi.

If Vaughan is picked, as Booth suggests, for his tactical nous, the effect, ironically, would be to implement the second of the demands (the other being Peter Moores' departure) that brought about Kevin Pietersen's unceremonious downfall as captain. In short, it would be an absurd move that would highlight once again the absurdity of England's management since the end of the Indian tour. I would love to be proven wrong, since there are few finer summer sights than a Vaughan cover drive - there can, however, be few more aggravating than that of Vaughan walking off with his trademark quizzical glance pitchwards, stumps strewn everywhere.

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