Vaughan leaves lasting legacy
Generations from now, Michael Vaughan's place in English cricketing history will be defined by the epic, and frenetic 2005 Ashes series.
As four Test matches in succession reached climaxes of searing tension, somewhere - whether on the dressing room balcony or in his customary fielding position at mid-off - Vaughan remained calm, methodically plotting England's sole Test series success against Australia in their last 11 attempts.
And yet Vaughan was much more than the magician who turned Andrew Flintoff into a national hero that summer, the senior role model brave enough to let the then rookie Kevin Pietersen bat with unbridled exuberance, and the mentor who encouraged Simon Jones to produce swinging exocets that defied the laws of physics.
Before the 2005 summer had begun, Vaughan was already an international captain par excellence, having forged a seamless bond with Duncan Fletcher, the coach who had thrust the classically-correct young Yorkshire batsman into the heat of a Johannesburg Test match in 1999.
At the time, Vaughan was 25 - though with captains past and present in Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart in the side he seemed a mere juvenile. But by batting calmly for two hours on a green wicket with Allan Donald at his most ferocious, Vaughan bounced positive vibes back to the pavilion - even as England were routed for 122.
Three years later, he was in the middle of a year of stunning productivity as 1,481 runs flowed from his bat - many of them eased through the gap between off-stump and extra-cover in a manner which made people swoon with pleasure, and opposition captains cuss in frustration.
Importantly, England were now winning a good number of Test series - only India and, of course, Australia remained unslain beasts - but when Nasser Hussain gave up the captaincy in 2003, Vaughan had become the obvious, and willing choice as his successor.
Fletcher remained in place and together with Vaughan established a dual leadership which allowed the talented, and mostly young, players under their watch to reach the limits of their potential.
Though Vaughan was no longer scoring centuries with machine-like regularity, it mattered not as England beat West Indies 3-0 on their own soil, and followed up with seven back-to-back Test wins on home soil against New Zealand and West Indies before, the following winter, recording a memorable 2-1 win in South Africa.
The homesickness that would later plague Steve Harmison was not in evidence, and the depression that Marcus Trescothick would later suffer had not risen to the surface.
Meanwhile, behind the headline acts there were occasional star-turns from Vaughan's shaggy-haired Yorkshire team-mate Matthew Hoggard and the oft-maligned spinner Ashley Giles - whose close relationship with Vaughan on tour led to Hussain labelling them "the lovers" in a newspaper column.
Vaughan often spoke in news conferences about the importance of "letting the players express themselves" and it was frequently dismissed as a lame soundbite. But in reality it was an important, central plank of his regime. He knew that if a batsman was riddled with the fear of failure he would not move his feet properly and probably edge to the slips. He knew that if a bowler was scared stiff about bowling wides or no-balls he would lose the ability to swing the ball.
And while Vaughan put the players at ease, smiled for the cameras and lifted the trophies, Fletcher was happy to sit out of the spotlight, hard at work at the 21st century coalface of the laptop screen. He did the science, Vaughan did the art in a perfectly symbiotic relationship - something the hastily constructed and rapidly aborted liaison involving Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen which followed could never replicate.
By now we were wondering just how good a captain Vaughan was. In most people's estimations, he had surpassed the cussed determination of Ray Illingworth, and favourable comparisons between Vaughan and Mike Brearley, the architect of the famous 1981 Ashes success, were being drawn.
But then it all started to go wrong. The post-2005 period was always a potentially dangerous time for England, though few could have predicted the speed of the demise. Vaughan's increasingly regular knee problems led England into a variety of makeshift captaincy appointments and the momentum evaporated.
With Vaughan mostly absent, Fletcher suddenly became isolated and defenceless, and eventually had to go himself. When Vaughan did play, his poor form was picked apart - and the man himself protested too much, frequently claiming a big score "was around the corner" when nothing of the sort emerged.
By the time he did resign the captaincy, towards the end of a series defeat by South Africa on home soil, the slightly tetchy relationship he had developed with the media was forgotten as Vaughan sobbed his way through a news conference in Loughborough.
No longer a one-day player, and with Twenty20 having largely passed him by, Vaughan retained hopes of getting back into the Test side, but it was never to be - and his final Test innings remains his 17 against South Africa last August at Edgbaston.
Having hit four effortless boundaries, he failed to get on top of a cover-drive off Andre Nel and picked out short extra-cover.
It summed up the frustrations of the latter part of Vaughan's career - at a time when he gave his wicket away far too often, including when playing for Yorkshire. It is right now for Ravi Bopara to be given freedom to continue his England career at number three unthreatened by the ex-captain, and that a young Yorkshire batsman gets an extended run at Headingley.
Vaughan seems likely to take a high-profile role in the media, though he will be astute enough to have fingers in other pies, and can spend more time looking after his burgeoning property empire.
But until we know exactly what the future holds for him, and before we switch focus squarely on this summer's Ashes, it is only fair to laud the most successful captain England have had in the modern era.