Cricket

England celebrate Ashes triumph despite Australia defeat

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England refused to let the small matter of a crushing innings defeat in the final Investec Test get in the way of celebrating their 3-2 Ashes success.

Alastair Cook's side lost their last four wickets on day four at The Oval to go down by an innings and 46 runs, but the defeat failed to prevent the champagne corks popping in the England dressing room and long into the night.

They will rightly bathe in the achievement of a fourth successive home series victory over Australia after celebrating in front of an adoring sell-out crowd.

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Brilliant bowling

England's 2015 Ashes superiority was built on the batting of Compton-Miller medallist Joe Root and the fine pace bowling of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes in back-to-back three-day victories at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

It was the day after the latter that captain Cook rang round his entire team, urging caution in order to close out the job in style. 

That was how it stayed despite his rallying call, England returning to London - they lost the second Test at Lord's - with hopes of a fourth win over Australia in a home summer for the first time, only to instead bowl poorly and then bat worse here.

They responded to 481 all out with only 149 of their own and then, following on, Cook's attempted rearguard came to little as they mustered 286 with the returning Australian bowler Peter Siddle in fine form. 

Cheerful Cook

Cook was rueful, but adamant too, that England have proper reason for cheer at overcoming odds which were resoundingly against them at the start of the summer.

"We had a Test match to try and win, but maybe we underestimated the emotional highs from Trent Bridge and how hard it would be to get back up to that level you really need to beat Australia," he said.

"Of course, we'd love to be sitting here at 4-1 rather than 3-2.

"But credit to Australia, they showed how good a team they are and the character they've got.

"It's a little bit disappointing, but I'm not going to worry about it too much tonight."

Few will quibble with that after a series result which has taken England up to third in the world rankings, just behind Australia with South Africa at the top.

They have done so with a new coach, Australian Trevor Bayliss, who arrived barely two weeks before the series.

He immediately took his Ashes hopefuls off for a bonding and catching-practice trip to Spain, where they fine-tuned gameplans and motivational mantras.

"All the time in Spain it was about winning three games," the captain added.

"The mind has such a powerful effect on you as a player.

"For (three of) the first four games we were fantastic, and we were off the pace in this game.

"I think Jos (Buttler) summed it up yesterday, saying we were probably five per cent off and didn't quite have the same intensity from both sides, but Australia played better than we did."

Roaring Root

Root could reflect with fair satisfaction on his man-of-the-series 460 runs, but noted too there might have been an alternative outcome had he not been dropped on nought by Brad Haddin before making 134 in England's opening win at Cardiff.

"It could have been completely different if Brad had taken that chance ... but that's part of international cricket," he said.

"You get opportunities and you've got to grasp them with both hands and make the most of it.

"Fortunately that day I did and managed to take that confidence and form throughout the summer."

For the 24-year-old vice-captain, and his team-mates, it is therefore onwards and upwards.

"I'm so proud to be a part of this team and really grateful to be sat here with that little urn in front of us," Root added.

"I think we are a side who are making small mistakes that are costing us dearly. But at the same time we are improving very quickly, and we're very hard to beat when we're at our best.

"If we continue to carry on that trend we've got a chance of being one of the best sides in the world, if not the best side in the world."

Cook is unsurprisingly in agreement.

"We did say there'd be times where we won't get it right, and the first two days here we didn't," he said.

"You can't win Test matches when you lose eight (wickets) in a session.

"There will be some dark days like that in the future, but there will be really good days as well."

He gives no fuel to the argument that England prospered, in the Midlands, on pitches made to measure for their bowlers.

"The wickets are the same for both sides - in three out of the five Test matches we played better than Australia," said Cook. "That's why we've won the Ashes.

"At certain moments we've had outstanding performances. We have some game-changers in our squad, and that's what I believe has happened in three of the five Tests."

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Topics:
England cricket
Cricket
Australia cricket
The Ashes

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