There are some things in life that are just so mesmerising that they simply take your breath away. Sometimes it’s a magnificent view, sometimes it’s a great piece of art and sometimes it’s a cover drive from an adopted Yorkshireman.
Michael Vaughan’s cover drive is a shot of rare, elegant beauty. It is the divine, trademark shot of the man who finally brought the Ashes home and it is forever etched across my mind as someone who learned to love cricket in the early 2000s.
Vaughan’s cover drives came from perfect balance and timing and despatched many a bowler who slightly misjudged their length. To me it is the eighth wonder of the world, impossibly pretty and effective; the shot of a man on top of his game and for a time on top of the world.
The Australians had to get acquainted to it quite quickly. The pinnacle of Vaughan’s batting came Down Under in 2002/03 where he notched up three majestic hundreds while others around him were overwhelmed by Steve Waugh’s all-conquering side.
Then in 2005, came Vaughan’s finest hour in the series that inspired a generation. The culmination of a long road to recovery and several hidings for the Aussies, England wrestled back the little urn with Vaughan’s inspirational and aggressive captaincy playing a huge part.
Although Vaughan struggled at times, he still showed his best at Old Trafford with a brilliant hundred that kept his side in the ascendancy in the series. In later years he started to suffer with the bat. His knees gave up on him; he irrevocably lost his rhythm.
Even in the dark days, there was hope that one glorious cover drive would spark Vaughan back into life. There were mini-revivals but he would never hit the heights of 2002/03 with the bat again. By the time of his teary farewell as England captain in 2008 he was a broken man, both physically and mentally.
Even in 2009 there was hope he would return. It was fleeting though, when it became apparent he wouldn’t be selected for that summer’s Ashes he quickly retired and moved to the commentary box instead. Vaughan and his famous cover drive were consigned to memory as Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower kicked England on to the next level.
Now Vaughan has become a ubiquitous media personality on reality TV shows and champion of tedious banter on Twitter. Still forget all that and think simply of an over-pitched delivery being gently caressed to the boundary by a true craftsman in full flight. That’s the Michael Vaughan I’ll always remember.