Shamik Das


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And then there were four

"Champione, champione, ole, ole, ole!"

MICHAEL VAUGHAN'S retirement today from Test cricket leaves England with only four survivors from the Ashes-winning side of 2005.

He joins Ian Bell, Ashley Giles, Steven Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones, Geraint Jones and Marcus Trescothick in bidding farewll to international cricket just eight days before the Ashes resumes.

Indeed, England's recent poor run may, in part, be put down to the break-up of that team, who never played together again, injuries, loss of form and mental illness putting paid to the unit which brought them such success.

Of the 47 Tests they have played since that triumph England have won only 14 - nine of those against New Zealand and the West Indies - with no series wins against teams ranked level with or above them in the ICC rankings.

Bell and Harmison, if they can conquer their repective demons, may yet return, but for Vaughan and the rest, it's a case of thank you and goodnight.

Andrew Strauss  Andrew Flintoff  Kevin Pietersen  Paul Collingwood

So what chance of a repeat success, and a first major series win since defeating Pakistan in 2006?

The four who remain from '05, Vaughan's four successors as captain - Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss - now form the backbone of the team and will all need to be at the very top of their game if England are to regain the Urn.

Completing the batting order are Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, a mixture of relative experience and noviceness, who'll be followed by wicket keeper-batsman Matt Prior at six, with Flintoff dropping down to seven.

The bowling attack, however, will be the section with the most questions hanging over it. James Anderson ad Stuart Broad look certain to start, alongside Graeme Swann and one of Adil Rashid or Monty Panesar.

And it's not just England who'll be without so many former stars, Australia will be without Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds, who all featured in the 2006/7 whitewash series.

BBC Sport: Michael Vaughan's career in pictures
Cricinfo: Key moments in Vaughan's career

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