Vaughan double shows the way as England prepare for Ashes climax

IF one of England's batsmen does during the last two Tests what Michael Vaughan did in 2002-03, the Ashes will be staying in English hands.

Eight years ago, Vaughan scored 145 during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and 183 during the New Year Test in Sydney.

Although England lost by five wickets in Melbourne, they won by 225 runs in Sydney on the back of Vaughan's outstanding display.

This time, an identical set of results – a defeat and a win – would be enough for Andrew Strauss's men to retain the Ashes with a 2-2 draw.

England, of course, are not contemplating the prospect of losing even one of the last two games.

They will hope their 267-run hammering during the last match in Perth was nothing more than an isolated blip.

But if they are to stop the Australian juggernaut continuing its momentum, they need one of their batsmen to stand up like Vaughan did in 2002-03.

If that happens, the likelihood is Strauss's men will win the series as the sides head to Melbourne on Boxing Day locked at 1-1.

Take out their below-par showing in Perth, where they failed to register 200 in either innings, and England's batting on this tour has been pretty impressive.

Four players – Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell – went into the game at the WACA averaging more than 100 in the series, with Cook and Pietersen having notched up double centuries.

Although Cook (123.75) is the only player still to average three figures, there is no reason England cannot rediscover their touch against a mediocre Australian attack.

The pitch at the MCG will not favour the pace bowlers as much as Perth, potentially negating the influence of Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris, and England will be keen to show that display was very much a one-off.

Eight years ago, former Yorkshire batsman Vaughan prospered against a significantly superior attack.

The Australian squad included Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill; there were no easy runs with that lot around.

Yet Vaughan – then aged 28 – took them on in memorable style.

His pulling and driving still lives in the memory as Australia's bowlers steadily wilted in the face of his classically aggressive onslaught.

Initially, there was calm before the storm.

During the first Test in Brisbane, which England lost by 384 runs, Vaughan managed only 33 in the first innings and made a second-ball duck in the second.

Matthew Hayden struck two centuries as England – left to chase 464 – were routed in their second innings for 79, McGrath leading the way with 4-36.

But although Australia went 2-0 up in the second Test at Adelaide, winning by an innings and 51 runs, Vaughan enjoyed an outstanding match.

He scored 177 in the first innings and 41 in the second, erecting pretty much a lone flag of defiance.

The series was all over by the third Test in Perth, where Australia won by an innings and 48 runs to retain the urn, Vaughan scoring only 34 and 9 as a dispirited England were soundly beaten.

But Vaughan was in no mood to go out with a whimper as he came into his own during the last two Tests.

At Melbourne, things went badly for England collectively as Justin Langer (250) and Hayden (102) helped Australia to 551-6 declared.

Vaughan made only 11 as England replied with 270, former Yorkshire all-rounder Craig White top-scoring with an unbeaten 85 and Gillespie taking 4-25.

But Vaughan showed all his quality during the follow-on, striking 145 in England's 387.

Australia lost five wickets in pursuit of 107 as England fell 4-0 down.

Wisden was fulsome in its praise of Vaughan, saying he "ploughed on, pulling imperiously and cover-driving as if he had been studying videos of Colin Cowdrey.

"He purred to 145, with 19 fours and three sixes, out of 236. On the way, he eclipsed Dennis Amiss's England record of 1,379 runs in a calendar year, and he finished with 1,481, an annual aggregate exceeded only by Viv Richards (1,710 in 1976) and Sunil Gavaskar (1,555 in 1979).

"Vaughan's second century of the series, like Hayden's his sixth of 2002, stamped him as a player of the utmost class.

"The Australians paid him their highest compliment: they stopped sledging him."

But Vaughan wasn't finished.

His highest score of the series arrived at Sydney, where his second innings 183 – after a first innings duck – clawed the score back to 4-1.

After Australia gained a first innings lead of just one run, Vaughan played the decisive hand as England followed up with 452-9 declared.

He batted nearly seven hours to help set Australia a notional target of 452, the home team succumbing for 226.

Wisden described Vaughan's hundred as "his best yet."

The almanack purred: "He erupted in the third over of the innings, swinging Gillespie for a glorious six off his hips, before settling into an almost flawless rhythm, which brought 27 fours in 278 balls.

"He sat on MacGill's stock big-turner and feasted on his plentiful loose offerings. MacGill appeared overanxious, too eager to impress, while Gillespie, always deadlier at the start of a series, conspicuously failed to lead the attack. Vaughan put on 189 with Hussain – an upgrade on the first day's third-wicket record – before succumbing to a recklessly idiosyncratic lbw decision, one of several by umpire Tiffin."

Vaughan was player of the series and leading run-scorer with 633 runs at 63.30. The next highest scorer was Hayden with 496 runs at 62.00 and the next highest English scorer Nasser Hussain with 382 at 38.20.

Vaughan's efforts propelled him to No.1 in the International Cricket Council's world rankings and established him as a batsman of the highest order.

How England could do with some Vaughan-esque heroics as they look to win their first Ashes series Down Under for 24 years.