Andrew Strauss believes England’s stunning escape here at the Gabba has set them up to end 24 years of Ashes pain in Australia after Alastair Cook played the innings of his life to ensure the tourists go to Adelaide all square.
Cook’s unbeaten 235 was described by Strauss as the best knock he had seen from an Englishman and was the mainstay of the tourists’ second-innings total of 517 for one that secured a draw at a venue where the Aussies have not been beaten since 1988.
Jonathan Trott also made 135 not out in an unbroken second-wicket stand of 329, the highest by an England pair in Australia.
Although they were unable to force an unlikely victory after Strauss declared, the home team reaching 107 for one before the players shook hands, they are the ones feeling happier as they look towards the Second Test, which starts on Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of belief we can go on and win the series from here,” said the England captain. “We’ll have a spring in our step going to Adelaide but we have to transfer that to the pitch.
“We had a lot of self-belief at the start of the series but everyone talks about how important the First Test at Brisbane is in an Ashes series. At the end of day three, we were still 202 runs adrift and it wasn’t looking good.
“To come back and draw was fantastic and showed what a hard team we are to beat.”
Cook’s effort — which he later described as a ‘daddy’ ton, a label given to any score more than 150 by batting coach Graham Gooch — was the highest on this ground, his maiden first-class double century and earned him the man-of-the match award.
The longer he and Trott defied the Australian bowlers, the more records fell as the left-hander gave a masterclass in the art of opening the batting.
Cook had a hugely difficult summer against Pakistan but has now justified the selectors’ faith in him and demonstrated that he can produce against Australia, having averaged in the mid-20s against them before this match.
“The dark days against Pakistan make this extra special,” said the Essex man. “We didn’t know about the records, so Trotty and I might have to start digging to see what we’ve achieved. The night before the Test began, I was as nervous I have been but getting through the first couple of hours gave me a lot of confidence because I hadn’t done it in an Ashes series before. It was frustrating to be out for 67 in the first innings and I was determined to make it count if I got in again. Luckily, I did.”
The Australian selectors have hinted strongly that changes will be made to their bowling attack for the Second Test, which starts at midnight on Friday, by adding pacemen Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger to the XI that played here, with Australia captain Ricky Ponting known to admire Harris greatly.
Ponting admitted Australia had let the chance of victory slip away on day four. He said: “We probably haven’t played our best the last couple of days of the game.
“The wicket did change dramatically and the last three days of the game have been dominated by the bat.”
Ponting ended the day unbeaten on 51 and added: “I obviously wanted to get some time in the middle. We should know a lot about their top three batsmen. We’ve got some work to do, Adelaide is a good batting wicket.”
Tom Collomosse is the cricket Correspondent for the Evening Standard.