Vaughan’s batting in 2002 has been the talk of international cricket through the year and has marked him out as a future captain. After all, he did lead the England A side successfully in 1998-99 to South Africa and Zimbabwe. He himself averaged over 40 and handled the side most maturely. It was those qualities that finally saw him make the main England squad to South Africa in 1999-2000.
In his debut series in South Africa, he did not play as an opener in the four Tests. His scores were modest, but what was noticeable even at that stage was his temperament which is still his greatest strength. It was no surprise when he was handed a full England contract for 2000.
But then came a series of injuries. A smooth flow in his career eluded him. He started the 2001 season well with a fine ton in the quarterfinals of the Benson and Hedges Cup against Somerset. That was his first century in a limited-overs match.
Close on the heels of that he registered his first Test hundred against Pakistan at Old Trafford in Manchester. That smooth-flowing century came in a match which England disappointingly lost. In the previous Test at Lord’s which England won by an innings, Vaughan made a modest contribution of 32. But the NatWest Series involving England, Pakistan and Australia was a big setback. He scored just seven runs in four innings and the injury jinx returned. This time Vaughan decided to go through a knee operation which forced him to miss out on the entire home Ashes series, something he had looked forward to so much.
It was only late in the season that he returned to the Yorkshire line-up in the county championships. That winter Vaughan kept his place in the England side for the tour of India. There were some useful scores in the odi series in India, but Vaughan’s story of unfortunate dismissals and injuries continued in New Zealand when, after making 59 in the fourth odi, he was run out by Daniel Vettori as he dropped his bat while making his ground. He then hurt his shoulder while attempting a catch.
He managed to make it back for the Test series, where he opened in all three Tests. But in each Test, he looked set and good, but was still dismissed in 20s and 30s and failed to log a single 50.
The story of Michael Vaughan till this stage was still only one of promises. Critics said he had it in him, but the scores did not suggest the same.
Then came 2002, a year that was to become the watershed in his career. A second-innings century—after a first innings 64—against Sri Lanka at Lord’s after England were forced to swallow the humiliation of being asked to follow on, saved the match for the home side. He also had other useful scores in 30s and 40 in the series.
But it was when India arrived in England that summer that Vaughan established himself as the man to watch. Lord’s was witness to another century from Vaughan and this time it helped England win the first Test. Then followed a series of scores that forced critics all over the world sit up and take notice. In the second Test, that was drawn, he made 197 and in the third, which England lost, he made 61 and 15, but in the last Test, which was once again drawn, Vaughan came up with a huge 195. That meant he had helped himself to four centuries in the summer—three against India and one against Lanka—and his aggregate against India alone was over 600 runs in six innings. Vaughan had in one single series transformed himself from just another promising batsman to being the bedrock of the English side. It was with this reputation that Vaughan arrived in Australia for his first Ashes series, having earlier missed out on an Ashes series at home.
His first taste was somewhat bitter. Glenn McGrath snared him cheaply for 33 and a duck, and England were at the receiving end. But from then on, it became the Australian bowlers versus Michael Vaughan. He smashed 177 and 41 in the second Test at Adelaide, and an upset looked almost possible, but once again England lost. The story continued in the third, with Vaughan failing with the bat with just 34 and 11. Into the fourth Test, England lost again to go 0-4 down, but Vaughan was in a class of his own, as he made his second century, 145, in the second innings.
With a 5-0 sweep looking very much possible, it was Vaughan once again in Sydney. He went for a duck to Brett Lee in the first innings. But in the second Vaughan made 183 and was instrumental in England winning a match by 225 runs and saving their face as the series ended 1-4 for them. For Vaughan it was 633 runs in the kitty, including three centuries. It was the second successive series in which he made over 600 runs.
With over 1,200 runs in nine Tests, since resuming his injury-hit career some 13 months ago, he has crossed the 50 mark eight times, and on seven of those occasions he has converted it into a century.
A tall but somewhat frail man, bothered by a troublesome knee and a painful shoulder, where he had a hairline crack, Vaughan is someone from whom England expects a lot in future.