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England celebrate after dismissing Australia's Ben Hilfenhaus, the last wicket to fall, in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne yesterday.
England celebrate after dismissing Australia's Ben Hilfenhaus, the last wicket to fall, in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne yesterday.
England celebrate after dismissing Australia's Ben Hilfenhaus, the last wicket to fall, in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne yesterday.

Strauss strategy: to suffocate Australia

The England captain savoured the Ashes win but said the landmark achievement was just one step on the way to cricket's summit for England.

Melbourne // Andrew Strauss, the captain, savoured the feeling of jinxes being crushed yesterday as England sealed the Ashes, but said the landmark achievement was just one step on the way to cricket's summit for England.

England's bowlers cleaned up Australia's tail before lunch to win the fourth test in Melbourne and become the first touring team to retain the Ashes on Australian soil in 24 years.

Strauss was a member of the team that was whitewashed 5-0 on the previous tour and while it was the "lowest point" of his career, Australia's use of stifling pressure four years ago had been studied and successfully turned back on the hosts, he said.

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

"I think that was the basis of our strategy out here to make sure that Australia never got away from us and 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 is naive."

Strauss lavished plaudits equally on players and coaching staff, and said there was no "secret ingredient" to England's success in Australia, where they have forged an unassailable 2-1 lead in the current five-Test series.

But the England captain said the team's ability to build big scores was given a jolt of confidence after the drawn first Test in Brisbane, where Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott teamed for a record 329-run partnership at the Gabba.

Their bowlers had also proved a revelation throughout the series, Strauss added, paying tribute to replacement seamers Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, and their Australian bowling coach David Saker, for having them slot into the side and take wickets immediately.

"It's a combination of a number of things. Andy Flower's been an outstanding director and providing a strategy for us to go forward with. But ultimately it's about them guys on the pitch delivering consistently.

"Maybe in the past we relied too heavily on one or two players to do that for us, now we don't do that so much. I think if there's one strength in our team it's that we all play for each other and I think that all comes out by what we do on the pitch."

"It's not formulaic or put-on at all, it's just the fact that we get on well and we value each other's contributions."

Strauss said the team would enjoy their success in the evening but was already thinking ahead to bigger and better things.

"I think we can, but not overnight," said Strauss, when asked whether he thought his current team could reach No 1 in the world rankings.

"In reality the job's along way off being done. This is one series and as a side we've still got a lot of goals that we want to achieve," he said.

"English cricket is not just about winning the Ashes. We've got to try to look forward to the future and try to get our team up those rankings and hopefully to world No 1 at some stage.

"That's the ultimate goal for us and we've got a lot of small steps on the way for us, including India next summer.

"I get the feeling we can still improve a lot as a side and that's quite motivating."

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