Having secured its first Ashes cricket series victory in Australia for 24 years, the hard work may be ahead for Andrew Strauss’s England team.
England won the final Test by an innings and 83 runs in Sydney today to take the best-of-five contest 3-1, Australia’s worst series loss since 1988-89.
“People now will have high expectations of us, there’s no doubt about that,” Strauss said at a news conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “We’re going to have to work very hard to live up to those expectations.”
Apart from the opening days of the series in Brisbane and the third Test in Perth, England dominated the Australians on their home turf. The touring team only had to bat once in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney as Australia lost three matches in series by more than an innings for the first time in 134 years of elite cricket.
Alastair Cook and James Anderson, members of the England team that suffered a 5-0 sweep of defeats in Australia four years ago, led both teams in batting and bowling.
Cook was named Player of the Series after amassing 766 runs, the second highest tally by an England batsman in any Ashes behind Walter Hammond’s 905 in 1928-29. The opener, who averaged 127.66, also set a record for a five-Test campaign by batting for a total of 2,171 minutes, eclipsing Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 2,057 for the West Indies against India in 2002.
‘Better and Better’
“We’ve had an amazing two months here but we’ve already said we want to improve,” Cook, who struck three centuries including a top score of 235 not out, told reporters. England coach “Andy Flower won’t let us have an easy time. He will demand that we get better and better.”
Anderson, who took five wickets at an average of 82.60 four years ago, consistently troubled Australia’s batsmen with his swing bowling this trip to pick up 24 wickets at 26.04.
England’s success was founded on discipline, patience and the ability of all 11 players to stand up and perform when required, said Strauss.
England scored nine centuries in the series to Australia’s three and racked up at least 500 runs four times in the series, an Ashes first. Bowlers Steve Finn, Chris Tremlett, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan all took at least 11 wickets each.
“It’s not often you get as many people in great form as we have had on this tour,” Strauss said. “When you do, it’s a pretty hard force to stop.”
While five of England’s top seven batsmen averaged over 50, Mike Hussey was the only Australian to pass the mark. The home team’s best score of 481 came in the first innings in Brisbane.
Australia, which was the world’s top-ranked team between 2003 and 2009, has lost six of its past eight Tests to slip to No. 5 in the International Cricket Council’s official rankings.
“This is probably as close to rock bottom as it gets,” said Australia captain Michael Clarke, standing in for the injured Ricky Ponting. “As players we feel disappointment right now, but we do see potential. We are better cricketers than what we have shown. We have no excuses.”
Clarke, who scored 193 runs at 21.44 in nine innings, said the margin of Australia’s defeat and his own form in the series prompted him to decide to quit international Twenty20 cricket in order to “try to become a better Test player.”
Only five Australians -- Clarke, Hussey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle and Shane Watson -- took part in all five matches.
Andrew Hilditch, Australia’s chairman of selectors, said his four-man panel wasn’t to blame for the defeat and defended changes including using three different spinners in Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer and Steve Smith.
“The reality is we were totally outplayed,” Hilditch told reporters at the SCG. “You can’t get away from that fact. They were better than we were.”
While Australia starts a review into what went wrong, Strauss wants to use England’s performances as a springboard to mount a challenge to become the No. 1-ranked Test team. England is currently third behind India and South Africa.
“The one hint of caution for us is that there are going to be tough times ahead, that’s just the way the game is,” Strauss said. “We’re not going to win by an innings every time we play. We’ve got to keep striving to get better because if we don’t other teams will pass us.”