| Michael Vaughan celebrates his fifth Test century at The Oval Thursday. (AFP)
London: For somebody with a ‘suspect’ right knee, Michael Vaughan has been doing remarkably. The Yorkshireman, in fact, is likely to undergo surgery within a week but, yet again in the on-going series, he came good in his calm and stylish manner to give England a huge boost.
At stumps on Day I (Thursday) of the series-decider, at The Oval, Vaughan was on 182 (365 minutes, 266 balls, 27x4) to John Crawley’s 16. Nasser Hussain — already upbeat after winning the one toss he dreaded losing — should now be feeling even better.
After all, with the wicket flat, Hussain is in the enviable position of setting the pace. Unless quick breakthroughs are effected, it could get unusually hot for Sourav Ganguly’s India. Given England’s current position, it will be difficult for them to lose.
Vaughan, of course, has been having a fantastic summer and, during the course of his third hundred in the past six weeks, crossed 500 for the series. Only two other Englishmen — Ken Barrington (1961-62) and Graham Gooch (1990) — have scored as many hundreds in a series versus India.
Moreover, having posted a hundred against Sri Lanka, earlier in the season, Vaughan has matched Gooch’s feat of four Test hundreds in a single summer. Barring a close call off Harbhajan Singh, on 122, Vaughan authored a flawless innings.
While Marcus Trescothick (57 in 100 minutes, 76 deliveries, 9x4) and Vaughan put on 98 for the first-wicket, Vaughan and Mark Butcher (54 in 192 minutes, 145 balls, 6x4) added 174 for the second — reminding us of that very significant partnership between Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Bangar on the first morning at Headingley.
Trescothick was dismissed going for a short-arm pull off Zaheer Khan, while Butcher exited trying to sweep Harbhajan. Incidentally, Harbhajan was introduced as early as in the 12th over.
Playing his first Test of the series, Trescothick confessed to having been “nervous” at the start. Any nervousness, though, wasn’t evident in his cool strokeplay. A fractured thumb is what kept this superb opener out of the first three Tests.
Off-the-record, the Indians were hoping Trescothick’s comeback wouldn’t be in this series. They certainly had good reasons for thinking that way.
In any case, the Indians themselves didn’t quite seem the side that created history at Headingley. Perhaps, the Player Terms issue is finally taking its toll. Perhaps, it just was an off day. Whatever, they must quickly get their act right.
Meanwhile, Sachin Tendulkar, who made his 100th Test appearance, received two presentations: On behalf of the Cricket Club of India by Mumbai Cricket Association president Sharad Pawar and, by Sourav, on the team’s behalf. The Test series sponsors, npower, made one Wednesday evening.
Agencies add: Vaughan’s magnificent century seriously dented India’s dreams of a series victory outside the sub-continent in 16 years, and placed England in a commanding position.
India had a pretty ordinary day as celebrations of Tendulkar’s 100th Test appearance turned sour. The bowlers were unable to trouble the Englishmen and the fielders put up a sloppy performance.
In contrast, the batsmen made merry throughout the day with openers Vaughan and Trescothick scoring at a blistering pace. It set the momentum for the rest of the day.
Hussain had no hesitation in electing to bat on a surface that did not have much pace or bounce and was well suited to batting. The Indian bowlers were not disciplined and allowed the openers to indulge in some attacking strokeplay.
Boundaries came almost at will and for the first hour-and-half, England were scoring at nearly five runs per over. Sourav tried all his bowlers in short spells but not one could make much of an impression.
With not much bounce in the pitch, the short-pitched deliveries were promptly helped to the boundaries. Ajit Agarkar repeatedly pitched it short and was carted for three fours in an over by Trescothick.
Ironically, it was a short one that got rid of Trescothick with Sanjay Bangar taking a well-judged catch at deep square-leg. Vaughan, who was playing second fiddle to the extravagant Trescothick, came into his own after the dismissal of his partner.
He slipped into the attacking mode and toyed with the Indian attack even as Butcher his time.