Strauss wants proper thrashing

Captain Andrew Strauss has urged
his England side to win the Ashes series after victory in the fourth Test
ensured they retained the urn.

The tourists lead 2-1 with the
fifth and final Test ongoing (it started on Monday).

“It would be a damp squib if we
didn’t go on and win in Sydney,” Strauss told BBC Sport after his team’s
victory in Melbourne by an innings and 157 runs.

“We are going to enjoy this but
it’s back on the horse again in Sydney and hopefully we can make it 3-1.”

Former England bowler Angus Fraser
said a series win – emulating the achievements of Mike Gatting’s side in
1986/87 – would give added kudos to Strauss and his team.

“Winning in Australia makes legends
of you as it does not happen very often,” said the Middlesex director of
cricket.

I’m sure Strauss wants to be seen
in that company and the players want to be talked about in the same way as
Gatting’s side.”

Victory in Melbourne means England
have successfully retained the Ashes for the first time since that 1986/87 tour
down under.

They also have the opportunity to
become the first England side to register three victories in a single Ashes
series in Australia since Mike Brearley led the tourists to a crushing 5-1 win
in 1979, although the hosts were weakened by defections to Kerry Packer’s rebel
World Series Cricket competition.

Strauss was a member of the England
side thumped 5-0 in the last Ashes series in Australia four years ago, an event
which he described as the “lowest point” of his career.

He insisted England had learnt
lessons from Australia’s approach then and used them to their advantage.

“The one thing that struck me as an
opening batsman was the feeling of being suffocated from both ends all the
time,” he said.

“I think that was the basis of our
strategy out here, to make sure that Australia never got away from us. If we
did that well, that would create wickets.

“If anything, that series showed us
that it’s going to be tough work out here and if we expect to turn up and win,
we’re naive.”

Michael Vaughan, the 2005
Ashes-winning captain, believes England can build on the success of the current
tour to be recognised as the strongest side in world cricket.

“England will probably be the third
best team in the world after this series but they’re on their way to being
number one,” said Vaughan.

“We’re still on an upward curve and
we need to be real because we’ve only beaten the fourth best team in the world,
but it’s still an amazing feat to know we’ve come down under and played such an
impressive brand of cricket.

“There has been a real ruthlessness
in beating Australia in two games. England are a good unit with lots of young
players and in four years’ time I would think the majority of this squad will
be back.”

According to Gatting, it is that
group strength which enabled England to retain the urn.

“To win in Australia you have to
play as a team,” said the former England captain. “It’s not just any one person
who will win you the Ashes or make a huge difference.

“Everybody has to compete out there
because you’re battling against a team who are used to winning in their own
back yard.

“But England are very well led,
very well coached and very well prepared.”

Strauss paid tribute to all 12 of
England’s backroom staff and their meticulous methods, which ensured the squad
were completely ready for the rigours of the tour.

Led by team director Andy Flower,
fielding coach Richard Halsall has turned England into a slick catching unit
while Australian bowling coach David Saker has given the pace attack fresh
impetus and an inside knowledge of bowling conditions in his home country.

“All of the stuff that you don’t
see has been crucial for us winning this series,” added Strauss.

“The fielding work we have done
over the last 18 months, the planning that Andy Flower and David Saker have put
into things.

“They deserve this just as much as
the players. To come out here and retain the Ashes will live long in all our
memories.

“It’s great for me but we all know
a captain is nothing without guys in the side who stand up and deliver under
pressure.

“I’m not going to take the credit
for this. It’s not my victory, it’s the team’s victory.”

England had made one change from
the 267-run defeat in Perth, replacing fast bowler Steven Finn with fellow
seamer Tim Bresnan.

The Yorkshireman repaid the faith
of England’s selectors with a superb six-wicket display, including the key
dismissals of Shane Watson, captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in quick
succession during the final session of the third day.

The 25-year-old took the wicket of
last-man Ben Hilfenhaus to spark the jubilant celebrations across the MCG turf.

“He ripped out the top of their
order and it was fitting that he was bowling at the end for taking that
wicket,” said England spinner Graeme Swann.

Four of England’s top six batsmen
have scored centuries so far, while only Hussey and Brad Haddin have notched
three-figure scores for the hosts.

Key men Ponting and vice-captain
Michael Clarke have endured poor series with the bat, an important factor
according to Swann.

“The trick is if someone is not in
great form not to let them get out of that rut,” he said. “Our seamers
continued to put the ball in the areas they don’t like.”

And he added: “The massive
difference for me was we have a few more guys in nick with bat and ball.”

England batting coach Graham Gooch
also highlighted the miserable batting form of Ponting as a key factor in
England’s success.

“We talked about targeting Ponting
as captain,” said Gooch, a former England skipper. “If you undermine him and
his performance you undermine Australia.

“He is an iconic player, one of the best of the last
decade and a half and that’s been a major factor in England retaining the Ashes.
They have to go to Sydney and keep that up.”

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