Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vaughan's Magicians Can Break Pitch Spell

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vaughan's Magicians Can Break Pitch Spell

Article excerpt


ANYTHING, as we well know, can happen at Headingley.

But it is a measure of England's progress already this year that any performance other than a commanding one over the next few days will come as a major letdown.

They've lost their former leader, despite his match-clinching century.

And their current captain is all set to move back to where he began in the Test batting order straight after returning from injury.

Neither Nasser Hussain's absence through retirement nor Michael Vaughan's widely discussed switch to No4 are likely to strengthen the team, certainly not in the short term.

But, suddenly, there is a mood of authority about this England set-up that suggests most problems can be overcome.

The three Tests they won in the West Indies during March and April could all have gone the other way.

Ditto the first match of this npower series against New Zealand at Lord's.

So far in 2004, though, someone has always shone through when England have needed a dash of inspiration.

They may need another touch of magic here, even if they go for the safety-first option of playing would-be allrounder Paul Collingwood in place of spinner Ashley Giles.

New Zealand are not far away from holding a head count to work out whether they can field 11 fit players tomorrow.

Batsman Craig McMillan is hoping to make himself available despite a broken left little finger, genuine all- rounder Jacob Oram has been discounted as a bowler because of a s ide strain and express paceman Shane Bond remains a frustrated onlooker after failing to recover from a stress fracture of the back.

But the Kiwis are seldom more dangerous than when they look down and virtually out.

England can confirm that the line on their performance graph is headingupwards all the while by quelling any threat of a fightback. …

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