From Sam Collins in Sydney
END OF THE ASHES: fifth Test, day five, Sydney
Match score: England 644 (Cook 189, Prior 118, Bell 115) beat Australia 281 (Smith 54*) and 280 by an innings and 83 runs to win series 3-1
Session score: Australia 68-3 England win
Session in six words: England’s 24-year wait is over
It’s been a victory party more protracted than a royal wedding, but this morning England finally got their hands on the Ashes in Australia. An innings-and-83 run victory here secured a 3-1 victory, their first since Mike Gatting’s team in 1986-87, but it is no so much the series win as the margin and the manner that are so impressive. If this was a football match they would say it could have been 10 – all England’s victories were by an innings and the figures didn’t flatter them.
Australia were beyond poor but for three-and-a-half matches England were awesome. They passed 500 four times, reaching 600 twice. The bowlers were economical and threatening in unison, five of them ending up with over 10 wickets, Jimmy Anderson an outstanding 24 in generally unhelpful conditions. Andrew Strauss was as calm when things went wrong in Perth as he was when they went right in Adelaide, Melbourne and here in Sydney. England have played like the best England team many here can remember – shorn of the egos of 2005 but with all the talent and the potential to improve further.
This morning was a formality, and it was appropriate that the final wickets were shared between Graeme Swann, Anderson and Chris Tremlett. Swann is the heartbeat of the side – a complicated, charismatic maverick, but has proved in this series that he can suppress that ego and play the support bowler when things aren’t going all his way. Anderson has led the attack with immense skill, while Tremlett was a latecomer to the scene who has proved to many that he has the heart to succeed at this level.
In the immediate term England must turn their mind to the Twenty20 and one-day series that follow next week, and then the World Cup in February. But in the longer term Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss will be looking to the home and away series against India this next English summer and winter as a chance to prove how far they have progressed since being generally outplayed by South Africa last winter. The key is the batsmen – England’s form this series came from nowhere after sketchy performances by the top-six last summer, and if players like Alastair Cook and Ian Bell can prove that they are consistent world-class performers over the next year, then England can rightfully claim they are up with the world’s best.
Where Australia go from here is less clear. Their whole summer has been a very English affair, and the clamour for change has a familiar ring to it, the criticism in the media equally so. The key to their immediate regeneration is in their leadership. Who is the right man to be in charge of the Test side in Sri Lanka in seven months time, and will he be in place? Are the selectors picking the right people, and are they the right people to be occupying those positions? Those are the questions that will be reverberating around Australian cricket in the next few months. One-day and World Cup success might ease some pain, but there is still an open wound in the middle of Australian cricket.