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IN his first interview since becoming the first English captain to win the Ashes for 18 years, MICHAEL VAUGHAN tells NASSER HUSSAIN why he had to ditch senior players, expresses his fears that cricket may waste its cash bonanza and says he must beat Australia Down Under.

NASSER HUSSAIN: Here we are almost two weeks on since that momentous day at The Oval - a good time to put everything in perspective. So when was the moment you realised you really could beat Australia? When did you think, 'we're better than this lot?' Michael Vaughan: I was sure, during the one-day series, that we were good enough to compete but I felt we needed conditions to be in our favour and for individuals to play outstandingly. Beforehand all I could think was, 'can we handle the pressure of the summer?' Then, when we went 1-0 down, I thought, 'is this going to be like the series of old?' But what did help was having players who hadn't lost against Australia before.

It was at Edgbaston, when Freddie Flintoff got those two wickets in an over, that I could see Australia thinking for the first time 'we could be in trouble here'. The first day was important because we showed we could bat positively, but that big over from Fred was the moment, I guess, when I thought we could win.

NH: What was said before Edgbaston?

MV: What helped was the 10-day gap after Lord's. If we had played back- to- back Tests I think we would have struggled. We all went away and gathered our thoughts.

We just said to them, 'go away and get yourselves in the right mental state because at Lord's we weren't the side we have been for the last two years.' Maybe the occasion got to the team but I started wondering whether we were up for the big occasion, as we always had been.

NH: A couple of players were under the microscope after Lord's. Matthew Hoggard for what he said before the match and Ashley Giles for what he said afterwards. Did that bring you all together? Was there a siege mentality that worked to your advantage?

MV: There was. When Ash arrived at Edgbaston he looked as if he'd aged 10 years. He had attacked the media and brought a lot of things on himself. So he turned up, looking about 65, and I said to him, 'you ain't Shane Warne.

You've got to get back to what you have been doing and enjoy it again. Bowl over the wicket, keep it tight and bore people out.' Then I got hit on the elbow in the nets and I think, in a funny way, that helped us because it took attention away from Ash. Suddenly the talk was about whether I would play.

Then McGrath went down on the first morning and, by the time we started the second Test, the Giles outburst had been forgotten.

You got stick for bowling first at Brisbane two years ago but Ricky Ponting deserved some for putting us in. He allowed us back in the series. If Australia had batted first, on a belter of a wicket, I'm not sure we would have won the Ashes. As it was, my team amazed me by the positive way they batted.

NH: What did you think when Ponting said, 'we'll have a bowl?' NH: Let's end this interview now!

MV: There are times when you really want to win the toss and this was a time I desperately wanted to win it and bat. I just wanted to see how Australia reacted to batting second. I knew they had lost batting second after the opposition reached 350 or 400.

NH: Things went your way at times.

You saved up your tosses for the right times, not many injuries etc.

MV: You need your luck. Martin MV: Brisbane!

Johnson will tell you the rugby boys had their luck when they won the World Cup. I had my luck when I scored a hundred at Old Trafford, but you make the most of your opportunities. The most pleasing aspect of the summer was the way we dominated at Old Trafford from the first ball. McGrath was back but the Aussies didn't get a look in. …