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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Ashes means everything to Australia
Justin Langer
By Justin Langer
Australian Test batsman

Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer
After a week or two of rest and relaxation it will be back to training and preparing like never before

With an immensely successful extended season of cricket behind us, the Australian cricket team's focus now turns to the Ashes.

A comprehensive series victory over New Zealand this week was a fitting climax to another period of much success and many memorable performances, collective and individual.

But England has always been looming in the distance.

Their successes over the last 12-18 months has them playing as well, if not better, than any England team for a very long time.

It has become apparent from our side of the world that they are as determined to continue their achievements as we have been during the same period.

For the next three-and-a-half months there is going to be major speculation and opinion bandied around about the chances of each team.

There will be predictions and outlandish statements made from former, and maybe even current, players.

People will analyse and theorize and come up with formulations and equations of where the Ashes will be won and lost.

Australia players celebrate in Auckland
We partied hard in Auckland after our win in the third Test

There is no doubt there will be something of an Ashes frenzy leading up to the first Test at Lord's, and for the game of cricket this is great.

But when crunch time arrives and the first ball is bowled at the home of cricket by Steve Harmison or Glenn McGrath, the team who is best prepared for the pressure of the Ashes will be the one to reap the rewards.

For us the Ashes means everything. It always has and probably always will.

Beating India is huge, and seeing off West Indies was always massive, but the fact remains that the Ashes is still the ultimate.

Both teams have had tough dress rehearsals over the last year, but after a week or two of rest and relaxation it will be back to training and preparing like never before.

We celebrated long and hard in Auckland after our third-Test win, and before singing the team song, all the guys relived their most memorable moment from the last 12 months.

AUSTRALIA'S VERY GOOD YEAR
MARCH 2004 Bt SL 3-0 (a)
JULY 2004 Bt SL 2-0 (h)
OCT 2004 Bt India 2-1 (a)
NOV 2004 Bt NZ 2-0 (h)
DEC 2004 Bt Pakistan 3-0 (h)
MARCH 2005 Bt NZ 2-0 (a)

Some mentioned our success in Sri Lanka, others the pride of beating India in India, while a few of my team mates couldn't go past the miracle that was McGrath's first Test half-century or the brilliance of Michael Clarke's debut ton.

Whatever their memory was, it was apparent that everyone in the team was proud of what has been and excited as to what is to come later in the year.

It was about this time last year that I sat and pondered the upcoming series in India.

While it was still five months away, it personally felt like the summit in my international career.

Beating India at home seemed the greatest ever challenge and we prepared accordingly.

Back then I doubted there would ever be a conquest on the cricket field more daunting than the Indian series.

We arrived in Mumbai fit, fresh and totally focused on the task at hand, and ultimately it was this commitment that guided us to the glory of victory.

Now, six months on, another heavyweight battle is looming.

From Auckland,
JL



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