Vaughan 'proud' of team

England came into the Ashes series needing only to prove themselves against the Australians.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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England came into the Ashes series needing only to prove themselves against the Australians. A 239-run loss in the series-opening match at Lord's last month heightened concern that the English would be no match for Australia for the ninth consecutive series. But Michael Vaughan's lineup rallied with a series-leveling two-run win at Edgbaston and went within a wicket Monday of being the first England team in two decades to beat Australia in consecutive Tests in an Ashes series. It has changed the complexion of the series. "We were one wicket away from going 2-1 up. People will say 'you must be disappointed,' but I'm very, very proud of the way the team has responded to going down at Lord's,'' said Vaughan. "Three weeks ago we were written off - out of the contest - 5-nil we kept on hearing. It's now 1-1 with two play and we've just dominated Australia in every session,'' the skipper said. Improved ranking Under Vaughan, England improved to No. 2 in the Test rankings with series wins against West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand. Australia's lead in the standings was so high that it would have taken a 5-0 sweep by England to challenge the top ranking. But the Australians are aging as a team and not as fearsome for a team of young Englishmen who mostly haven't been scared by previous Ashes demolitions. Australia's last partnership of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath held out for four overs to salvage a draw Monday after skipper Ricky Ponting was dismissed for 156 with 24 balls remaining at Old Trafford. In a tense finish, Lee blocked the last three balls from Steve Harmison to finish unbeaten on 18. He'd been stranded at the non-striker's end on 43 not out in the second Test when Harmison had Michael Kasprowicz caught behind to secure England's two-run win - the closest ever in the Ashes. The Australian tail-enders had wiped off 104 of the 107 runs needed to win the second match at Edgbaston. Scrambling for draw This time, Australia was scrambling for a draw for most of the final day after deciding not to chase what would have been a world record target of 423. The Australians finished 371 for nine as darkness descended. "We dominated the whole Test match against Australia - a day was lost to weather but we couldn't control that - and we came within a whisper of beating them,'' said Vaughan. "There's a lot of positives. The team has shown, and individuals have shown, a lot of character. That bodes well.'' Vaughan won the toss last Thursday and decided to bat, contributing 166 in England's first innings of 444. It was the first hundred of the series. England bowled Australia out for 302 and then reached 280 for six - opener Andrew Strauss notching his maiden Ashes hundred - before Vaughan declared the innings closed late Sunday. Sensing an England victory, thousands of fans descended on Old Trafford from early Monday morning, filling the Lancashire club to its 23,500 capacity. Ground officials estimated 10,000 people had to be turned away. At times the boisterous chanting from the crowd was more like what Manchester United, the world's richest soccer club, would expect at its nearby home ground. Vaughan said it was a good sign for cricket and England that the Ashes series is still competing for national headlines and attention with the start of English soccer's Premier League. The next Test starts August 25 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, and the fifth is set to start September 8 at The Oval in London. (AP)