Vaughan's Ashes aim
England captain Michael Vaughan heads to New Zealand next week confident of playing a lead role in next year’s Ashes series - and hopes it will not be his last against Australia.
His long-term targets are to front another competitive England challenge in 2009 and play one final series Down Under after relinquishing the captaincy.
Vaughan, speaking at the launch of npower’s latest proposed Urban Cricket facility in Abbeyfield Park, Sheffield, is intent on developing a winning momentum with just 15 months to go before the start of the next Ashes summer.
England embarked on a successful spree of five straight series victories at the same point prior to the 2-1 win in 2005.
On a personal level, the 33-year-old feels fit, refreshed after walking away from the one-day side, and in a position to replicate something like his stellar form of 2002-03, when he struck eight hundreds in 15 Tests, including three against Australia.
“I know I am good enough to be there,” said Vaughan, who returned to Test action last summer after 18 months out with a career-threatening knee injury.
“That’s never ever been in question. In the nine games since I have come back and played, I have probably found a rhythm to bat in that I have not had for a few years, which is a really great sign.”
In six Tests last summer, Vaughan averaged 54.6 and his 124 against India at Nottingham was reminiscent of his very best.
“I could have even averaged 75-80 with the way I played. I had two or three opportunities to go on and get 150s, 200s, massive scores and I didn’t take them,” Vaughan reflected.
“If I can continue to play in that rhythm and form, I believe there will be a purple patch around the corner where I get big scores on the trot.
“Whether I am there in 2009 - it is still a long way off - I still have ambition to go on beyond it.
“I don’t just think 2009 will be it for me, I look maybe at the Australians in Australia the time after that. I would like to still be playing in that.”
But the reign of England’s most successful Test captain - who has nevertheless overseen back-to-back series defeats - will have come to its conclusion before then.
“I don’t think I will do it for that stretch,” said Vaughan. “I really would love to play as a non-captain towards the latter stages of my career.
“I love the captaincy but I also wouldn’t mind having a go eventually at just playing.
“That’s why I have enjoyed this little six-week period out of the game when I can just focus on me, if you like - get my body and form to the standard I want it to be at, arrive in New Zealand fitter, and I probably will do, than I have been for years and years.
“When I get there, I have to look after all the team so, in these little periods I have, I have to make sure I look after myself and arrive in decent form.”
Paul Collingwood, the other half in the England captaincy split, has guaranteed a feel-good factor at the start of the New Zealand tour - via a series win in the Twenty20 contests - which Vaughan believes must be built on.
Few would have envisaged the Test team taking pointers from the one-day set-up a year ago but for Vaughan, who admits to sneaking no more than 10 minutes viewing time, transferring some of the basics will be key in developing a winning culture.
“It is important we do that,” he said. “That is why we need to get some kind of settled unit.
“It is very unlikely we can pick the XI in New Zealand that will start the Ashes but the nucleus - the formula and formulation - of that side should be very similar.
“Last time, we had a year of playing together. We had a great series win in South Africa, then that whole summer only Simon (Jones) missed out on that last Test match.
“You need your luck and we just have to make sure we get back to that kind of consistency of picking and sticking with people.”