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It's All Paid Off!!

The hard, long hours spent in the nets, gymnasium and analysing the opposition have all been worthwhile as Michael Vaughan collected the trophy that signalled the end of four decades of home rule for South Africa.

Not since the Beatles were all alive and No.1 in the charts has a touring English side prevailed in the rainbow nation, but Vaughan’s heroes were intent on proving that they are second only to Australia in terms of world domination.

It was tough, but even without achieving top form as a unit, England still came good when it mattered to dig as deep as necessary to reach their objective.

In reducing Graeme Smith’s to a 2-1 series defeat, Vaughan’s team illustrated just how bonded they are as a collective. There were many times in the last six weeks when somebody found a great performance to bail out his teammates… and that’s a good sign of a team pulling truly for one another.

Everybody contributed to the cause at some stage, but I thought it fitting that it was Vaughny and Graham Thorpe who shared an unbroken 75-minute stand in a nervous final session to condemn South Africa to defeat.

But one word of caution. Nobody should get carried away as they inevitably look forward to next summer and the visit of Australia. If England are to compete with the world No.1’s they will have to considerable raise the performance levels they showed in South Africa.

Of immediate interest now is the seven-match one-day series which will sadly take place without the presence of key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who is now back in England to see specialists with a view to surgery on an ankle.

Flintoff’s withdrawal and the omission from the one-day squad of Robert Key and Graham Thorpe gives a great opportunity to several of the younger players who were not involved in the Test series to stake their claims, not just for the limited-overs team, but also the full England X1.

It could be that the No.3 spot is up for grabs and maybe one of the bowling berths so this is a crucial time for batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell as well as paceman James Anderson.

But before that series starts, let’s raise a glass to toast Vaughan’s record-breakers and look forward to what should be a glorious summer.

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