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Cricket: WE END THEIR FLIPPING HELL.

MICHAEL VAUGHAN called in the Daily Mirror spin doctor to end his flipping hell - and our lucky coin soon provided him with a silver lining.

Baffled Vaughan lost the toss for the 16th time in 22 Tests as captain in Cape Town, making him the least successful England skipper in Test history at the pre-match ritual.

So with the series against South Africa deadlocked at 1-1, going into tomorrow's fourth Test at the Wanderers here, we stepped in to help. Mirror Sport presented Captain Fantastic with an antique 1900 Queen Victoria silver half-crown to bring him a change of fortune.

WG Grace often won the toss using a coin with Queen Victoria's head on one side by calling "The Lady".

And what do you know? In 22 spins of the coin after England's net practice yesterday, Vaughan more than doubled his money with our lucky half-crown, calling correctly 14 times.

Team-mates who jokingly told him not to come back to the dressing room if he lost the toss in Cape Town looked on as Vaughan, going for heads each time, won the first five in a row.

Ambushed

Afterwards he shrugged: "Maybe I'm not such a useless tosser after all. I'm certainly due to win one in a Test match and it would be nice if it happened here. I'd settle for winning 14 of the next 22, if only to stop the lads giving me any more grief."

If ever there was a game where Vaughan needed his luck to change, it is tomorrow's showdown on the ground where he took guard on his Test debut in 1999 with England on 2 for 4.

On that occasion, Hansie Cronje won a vital toss, invited England to bat first in the gloom and they were ambushed by Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock.

Vaughan is anxious that the result of the series should not hinge on a pre-match lottery in which South African captain Graeme Smith boasts a record of 17 wins from 23 tosses.

Although tossing a coin is a simple manoeuvre which should leave no room for quibbling, it has occasionally led to controversy and suspicion.

Former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford still recoils with disgust at the mention of a Test match in Pakistan where the disgraced Salim Malik - banned for life for match-fixing - once called in Urdu and then said, "Thanks very much, we'll have a bat".

And winning the toss, of course, is no guarantee of success. Nasser Hussain infamously put the Aussies into bat in Brisbane on the first morning of the Ashes two winters ago and watched them pile up 364-2.

But when Vaughan goes out for the toss at 8am tomorrow, the Daily Mirror would like to wish him happy landings.

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VAUGHAN & THE KING OF SPIN: Vaughan and Mirror man Mike Walters use our lucky coin (below)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2005
Words:476
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