FORMER England captain Michael Vaughan fears the future of Test cricket has been jeopardised by limiting South Africa to just three five-day matches against Andrew Strauss’s all conquering side next summer.
Under the astute leadership of Strauss and head coach Andy Flower, England have risen to No1 in the Test rankings following a prolonged period of excellence, culminating in this summer’s whitewash of India.
The Proteas, with their twin speedsters Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, would have provided England with the sternest examination of their billing as the world’s premier Test team over a four or five-match series, according to Vaughan.
But last week’s scheduling announcement confirmed that South Africa’s visit would feature just three Tests, as well as encompassing five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 fixtures, much to the displeasure of Vaughan.
“It’s a real disappointment South Africa are only here for three Tests next summer,” said Vaughan. “They’re the only side out there who can give England a game and a four-match series would’ve provided a real spectacle.
“I remember being involved in titanic struggles against them in series that lasted four or five matches, but sadly three-Test and even two-Test series are becoming the norm these days. It can’t be a good thing long-term.
“As well, I always think in a shorter series it gives the weaker team a chance to pull off a victory that isn’t an accurate reflection of what’s happened, and weather can also unfairly shape the outcome.”
England’s immediate focus, however, will centre on the upcoming abbreviated tour of India where they are due to play five ODIs and two T20 matches.
Vaughan is encouraged by the rapid improvement England have shown under the captaincy of Alastair Cook, who took the job following a disappointing World Cup campaign in March.
England put India to the sword in a five-match 50 over series last month, but Vaughan is sure Cook and his charges will face a very different side to the one that surrendered so tamely this summer.
“The Indian public will be expecting a reaction after what went on this summer and a lot of these England youngsters won’t have experienced an atmosphere like the ones they’re about to taste,” said Vaughan, who recently trekked across China in a bid to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Charity in Sheffield (inset).
“You can’t help but be impressed by what England have achieved since the World Cup where they were ordinary to say the least. Of the youngsters who have been promoted and given a chance I’m particularly impressed by Jade Dernbach.
“It’s crucial to have someone who the captain can trust to bowl at the end of an innings when the pressure is on and right now he looks like the man.
“In terms of the batting I was saying all summer long Jonny Bairstow should be given a chance and he didn’t let me down on his debut in Cardiff. England have a real natural talent to work with there who should become a fixture of the side for years to come.”
Visit the China trek website at www.tchc.org.uk/china-trek to find out more.