Strauss: This is only the start for England and for me

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss hopes to lead England in their defence of the Ashes in 2013, writes Stephen Brenkley.

He has already created a small piece of history by being captain of winning sides home and away and an additional triumph would mark him out as one of the great sporting commanders.

Not that he was seeing it that way yesterday after England's overwhelming defeat of Australia by an innings and 83 runs on the final morning of the fifth Test in Sydney, giving them a 3-1 series victory, their first in Australia for 24 years.

"I'd like to but a lot can happen in the game of cricket," he said of the next encounter with the oldest enemy in England. "You start coming out with big comments and who knows what's around the corner?" But he had a short and sweet rejoinder to the question of whether the desire and passion were still present. "Beating strongly," he said.

It is an important part of his persona that he is understated, modest and rounded. But these qualities conceal a driven, tough sportsman who has not been sated by England's unprecedented victory at the SCG where they completed their third innings victory of the series. Never have such margins been inflicted on Australia in a single contest. After this resounding victory engineered by Strauss and his side in the past seven weeks, their aspirations to be world No 1 no longer seem like a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing. It is next in Test terms on Strauss's agenda – the World Cup starting in India next month has his fuller attention for the moment – and defeat of Sri Lanka and India at home later this year would bring it a significant step closer.

England can command the respect of the cricket world once more. Without question, Australia is in a state of shock – and that is the country, not only the cricket team. They suspected England might come here and win, that it was their turn, but they never thought that anything so utterly decisive would happen. A whole generation has grown up believing this is what Aussies do to Poms.

"I don't think it's rocket science particularly," said Strauss. "You need to get the right people involved, we're fortunate with the team we've got at the moment that the best performers in England happen to be great team men, which I think helps significantly.

"I think guys just want to buy into something, they want to buy into the team, they want to buy into the thought that we're going somewhere as a unit and we're not going to leave anyone behind. It hasn't been a particularly difficult thing to do."

But that should not be confused with coming to Australia and winning as they pleased. It may have looked like that as England ran away with the last two Tests, but the fact remains that Australia had lost only one Test series at home in 18 years and the last time they suffered such a beating was to the great West Indies side of the late 1980s.

"It hasn't felt easy, there's no doubt about that," said Strauss. "Brisbane was hard work where we were right behind the game after the first innings. We came back well in Adelaide but in Perth again we were put to bed pretty quickly. So there is always a feeling that you don't know what is round the corner and what's going to be sprung on you. Thankfully, as the series has gone on I think we have become more dominant and certainly those last two Test matches were as good as an England side I've played in has performed."

At Strauss's side all the way through his captaincy, or at least hard at work hatching plans in some small back room and running strenuous, detailed practices, has been the coach, Andy Flower. The pair came together only by grotesque accident precisely two years ago when the previous incumbents of the roles, Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen, were deposed. That was one of English cricket's darkest days and yesterday was one the brightest.

"Andy Flower has been immense, he is an incredible bloke is Andy Flower," said Strauss. "A guy we all respect hugely for not only what he has achieved but how he holds himself in the dressing room. Often you can't describe what he brings to the side because it really is a multitude of things, little conversations he has with people, little thoughts he puts on to paper which he brings to fruition and practice. The way he works with the team and the back-room staff is as good as I have seen in both county and world cricket."

There are bound to be comparisons between this epic victory and the closer, but no less magnificent win in England in 2005 when the Ashes came home after 16 years. But then it all went wrong. The team split up, confidence, form and talent ebbed away. They lost the next Ashes 5-0.

"I think the first thing to say is that we struggled for a bit afterwards, 2007-08 were not great for England, there was some rebuilding in the approach. We were trying to go back to basics, figure out your best team and how you want to play your cricket. It was a few years before we started to get a formula together, and that has been stuck to quite rigidly and has carried on."

And there will be barely any time for reflecting on a job well done for Strauss. Today England drive to Canberra for a one-day match against the Prime Minister's XI and then finalise their plans for a one-day series against Australia that leads to the World Cup. One day he can sit back and think about it all.

"I think that will be pipe-and-slippers time," he said. "Clearly it is a good achievement to come out here and win, and equally clearly the captain is only as good as the players he has got. At the end of my career I will sit back and think, 'That was one of the most special times of my career.'

"While I am still captaining the side you aren't doing your job if you're not building towards the next challenge and trying to improve the guys. I can't pat myself on the back at this stage and I am sure my team-mates won't let me." But one day, if he lets them, they will carry him on their shoulders.

Sydney Scoreboard

Fifth Ashes Test, at the SCG (final day of five): England beat Australia by an innings and 83 runs

Australia won toss

Australia First Innings 280 (Johnson 53, Anderson 4-66)

England First Innings 644 (Cook 189, Prior 118, Bell 115, Strauss 60, Johnson 4-168)

Australia Second Innings Overnight 213-7

S P D Smith not out: 54

90 balls 6 fours

P M Siddle c Anderson b Swann: 43

65 balls 4 fours

B W Hilfenhaus c Prior b Anderson: 7

11 balls 1 fours

M A Beer b Tremlett: 2

9 balls

Extras (b11 lb4 w3 nb2): 20

Total (84.4 overs): 281

Fall: 1-46, 2-52, 3-117, 4-124, 5-161, 6-171, 7-171, 8-257, 9-267. 10-281

Bowling: J M Anderson 18-5-61-3 (4-0-22-0; 7-4-11-2; 2-0-17-0; 3-1-2-0; 2-0-9-1), C T Tremlett 20.4-4-79-3 (5-2-21-0; 5-1-14-0; 5-1-18-2; 3-0-15-0; 2.4-0-11-1), G P Swann 28-8-75-1 (23-6-58-0; 2-1-5-0; 3-1-12-1), T T Bresnan 18-6-51-2 (7-3-12-1; 7-3-20-1; 3-0-13-0).

Progress: Australia 250 in 76.1 overs, Smith: 50 off 85 balls (six fours).

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and B F Bowden (NZ).

TV umpire: A L Hill (NZ).

Match referee: R S Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

England win five-match series 3-1

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