Finn and Anderson prove England are simply a cut above Australia


Of course, none of what is happening between England and Australia at present is remotely connected to the Ashes next year. But you should try telling that to the marines.

The NatWest Series that is being dominated by the home side, and which they lead 3-0 with one to play at Old Trafford tomorrow, is an event in isolation in a quite different format of the game. But so overwhelming has been England's superiority, on such a different level are their skills with both bat and ball, that it is impossible not to make them outstanding favourites to retain the urn.

At home, in any format, England are beginning to look impregnable. They have won the last seven series in both one-day internationals and Tests. The eight-wicket victory at Durham on Saturday was also their ninth consecutive one-day win home or away, a record sequence for any England side. It has a galvanising effect which is difficult for opponents to repulse, as England found to their constant humiliation when Australia were cocks of the walk for 15 years or so.

There is time for Australia to make significant advances. A year is a long time in the life of young, tearaway fast bowlers, of whom they have plenty. The new batsmen found so wanting on unpleasant pitches in the past week or so may adjust to the demands of international cricket in time.

But maybe not, in either case. For now, England are simply the better team, a plain fact that was true of Australia for so long. In winning the fourth match, England were more adept in all departments of the game. Their bowling was flawless, their batting beautifully paced and the imperfection of their fielding was salvaged by the fact that another opportunity was always likely to present itself.

England's bowlers remain a thing of beauty. Steve Finn, right, and Jimmy Anderson were England's outstanding performers but if Finn seems to be making an unanswerable case for selection in the Test series against South Africa, now only 10 days away, Tim Bresnan's merits are too easily overlooked. He has a habit of taking wickets at important points.

England knocked off the 201 they needed to win – the fact that Australia reached 200 did not give them a psychological advantage – in comfort. There was no rush and they knew it.

AlastairCook said: "We are getting off to good starts, which makes it easier for our lower order. We have had to move on from Kev [Pietersen}. Clearly, he is a world-class player who is missed, but we have all moved on as a side."

Michael Clarke, Australia's captain, did not try to conceal the gap between the sides. It is not his style. "I do believe England got the better of conditions, but it's easy to make excuses," he said.

"Unfortunately, once again today, we were outplayed."