x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Strauss will set bar higher

England finished their triumphant Ashes series yesterday by making history, perhaps the prompt for the captain Andrew Strauss to suggest his victorious team have yet to hit their peak.

England finished their triumphant Ashes series yesterday by making history, perhaps the prompt for the captain Andrew Strauss to suggest his victorious team have yet to hit their peak.

England's emphatic innings and 83-run victory in the Sydney Test completed a 3-1 series rout of the Australians for their third win in the past four series, and they became the first England team in 24 years to win the Ashes outright in Australia.

Strauss and the coach Andy Flower were the masterminds behind England's powerful showing, which has raised hopes they will challenge to become the top team in world cricket.

England are ranked third in Test cricket behind India and South Africa, with Australia sliding to fifth after their sixth defeat in their past eight Tests.

England have a further chance to climb the rankings ladder with series on home soil against Sri Lanka - the side they displaced at No 3 - and India, in the summer.

Strauss, however, said it was important that England do not become too impressed with themselves.

"When it does happen you tend to think, 'We can keep doing this forever,' and that is the one hint of caution for us."

It had seemed a formality since the end of the third day in the final Test at Sydney that they would wrap up a series win - and so it proved, the 3-1 verdict confirmed just before noon on the last day.

"Certainly the last two Test matches were as well as an England side I've played in has performed," Strauss said. "It's not often you get as many people in great form as we have done on this tour. But when you do you're a hard force to stop."

Praise was glowing from the English press. The former England captain Mike Atherton, wrote in The Times that pride in the English game had been restored, while Ian Botham, another former England captain and Ashes winner, wrote on The Mirror website: "Where you see desperation from the Australians, there is cool, calm, collected professionalism from England."

The Australian reaction was a complete contrast. "Our Worst XI," headlined the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday morning, summing up the nation's mood, before saying the team: "Can't bat, can't bowl, can't even think straight".

Michael Clarke, standing in for the injured Ricky Ponting as the Australia captain, was left to face the media and uttered words that few of his predecessors would have countenanced: Australia must learn from England.

"This is probably as close to rock bottom as it gets," said Clarke, who quit as captain of Australia's Twenty20 team after the match.

"I think 100 per cent we have to learn from what England did this series. Their performance, not only with bat and ball, but in the field, was outstanding for a five-Test series."

Andrew Hilditch, the national selector, said the Australia selectors did a "very good job".

"The reality is we were totally outplayed. You just can't get away from that fact that they were better than we were," said Hilditch, who was noncommittal when asked to confirm Ponting's position as Test captain.