England's 3-1 Ashes victory saw a number of new records set
By Phil Dawkes
England's 3-1 victory over Australia in the Ashes this winter will live long in the memory.
It is also likely to have a lasting presence in the record books.
Few Test series have witnessed the surpassing of quite so many significant landmarks as the one that concluded so emphatically in England's favour in Sydney on Friday.
Inevitably, the majority of the records were attained by the dominant tourists, who seemingly set new benchmarks every time they took to the field.
As a team, they inflicted three innings-defeats on Australia in a home series for the first time, and recorded new highest innings totals, batting partnerships and individual scores down under, while player-of-the-series Alastair Cook was a one-man record machine.
Test Match Special's South African scorer Andrew Samson - who worked overtime to bring all the many varied records and stats to listeners throughout the series - admits it has been a busy few weeks.
"This series has kept me pretty busy but it has been rewarding," Samson told BBC Sport. "It's kept me involved and I prefer it that way. It is much better to see records being broken.
"It is unusual for so many records to have fallen in one series, especially one of this nature, with so much history.
"When you don't have much history, it is easier to break records but the Ashes has over 130 years behind it, so it is usually rare to see records fall.
"England broke a lot of records but Australia didn't break many at all, and this shows how big the gulf is between the two sides.
"At the beginning of the series, I, like most people, thought it would be fairly close but it is clear how much England were the better team. They were better organised, better managed and played better as a team.
"It helps that England have been poor in Australia in previous years. The records are not that difficult to break."
THREE WINS BY AN INNINGS...
Arguably the most significant record over the whole series is England becoming the first touring team to record three innings victories in a series over Australia. Prior to this the Baggy Greens had not even lost two Tests by such a margin in a series on home turf.
It illustrated clearly the gulf in class between a well-prepared, disciplined and confident touring team and a flawed, stagnating home side.
"This is indicative of how far behind England Australia were throughout the series," says Samson. "It has only ever happened twice before that England have won three games by an innings in a series away from home. It is a great achievement from an England point of view.
England celebrate Ashes triumph
"Such a number of innings wins by England is unthinkable against Australia, especially when you consider how strong Australia have been for the past 20 years. They hardly lost any games, let alone three by an innings in one series."
The man who led his side to the three victories added a notable and rare feather to his cap in doing so.
Andrew Strauss is now only the third England captain - after Sir Len Hutton and Mike Brearley - to win Ashes series both home and away.
"It is a very impressive achievement for him as a leader," admits Samson.
Rarely before have an England team looked so assured at the crease in an Ashes series down under and this was born out with the regular posting of high totals.
Andrew Samson fills TMS listeners in on another Ashes record
Four times during the series they topped 500 in an innings, including 517-1 in the first Test in Brisbane - which represented their highest ever second innings score in a Test in Australia - and 644 in the first innings in Sydney - their highest ever total in the backyard of the old enemy.
Also, in racking up 620-5 in Adelaide, they passed the 500-run mark in successive innings in the Ashes for the first time.
"Four totals over 500 in a series has only ever been done by any team three times before in cricket history," says Samson. "It just shows how much England have clobbered Australia this series."
STAND AND BE COUNTED
"In Brisbane on the fourth and fifth day, when Strauss, Cook and Jonathan Trott all scored their hundreds was the busiest I have been throughout the series," admits Samson.
England's second innings at the Gabba was pivotal in the outcome of this Ashes series, not only because it ensured the tourists claimed a draw from a game that Australia had threatened to win, but it demonstrated to Strauss' men that they could not only compete in this series, but dominate it.
Strauss and Cook's opening partnership of 188 was an England record at Brisbane, and during this stand the duo overtook Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe's tally of 3,249 runs to become England's highest-scoring opening pair.
Cook and Jonathan Trott's unbeaten partnership of 329 runs was England's best for any wicket in Australia, beating the 323 set by Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes in Melbourne in 1911-12, and the ninth highest England partnership in history.
With Strauss scoring 110, Cook 235 and Trott 135, it was also only the second time in England's cricketing history that their first three batsmen had all scored centuries.
Cook's 235 in that innings in Brisbane - the highest ever Test score on the ground - served notice that the Essex opener was about to embark on the finest series of his career, during which he single-handedly re-wrote the record books.
"Cook's batting was a big stand-out for England during the series. He never looked like ever getting out," admits Samson.
In the second Test in Adelaide, Cook's reaching of 136 not out, on the way to a 148, meant he had scored 371 runs and batted for 1,022 minutes without being dismissed, an England record.
A further century in Sydney would help Cook amass 766 runs, representing the second highest series total by an England batsman behind only Walter Hammond's 905 in Australia in 1928/29, which was achieved over nine innings to Cook's seven.
Cook's average of 127 is the second highest by an Englishman in the Ashes behind Geoff Boycott, who averaged 147 in 1977 but played in only three Tests.
Apart from Cook and Boycott, only Hammond, Len Hutton and Eddie Paynter have finished an Ashes series with three-figure averages having played three or more Tests.
Cook broke a number of records throughout the series
It will be a relief to the Aussies that Cook will not figure in the upcoming one-day series having had to endure him amassing runs at the crease for a total of 2,171 minutes, a new world record for a five-Test series, beating Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 2,057 for the West Indies against India in 2002.
Finally, during his 189 in the first innings of the fifth Test, Cook became the second youngest player behind Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar to reach a career total of 5,000 runs.
OTHER ENGLAND RECORDS
Of course, Cook was not the only England batsman to register personal records: Kevin Pietersen's innings of 227 in Adelaide was his Test best, while Ian Bell and Matt Prior both registered their first Ashes centuries in Sydney.
Prior brought his ton up off 109 balls, the fastest England Ashes century since Ian Botham's 1981 effort at Old Trafford.
Pace bowler Jimmy Anderson's 24 wickets in the series was not a record - but it is worthy of mention as the best for England in a five-match series in Australia (John Snow took 31 in six in 1970-71)
since Frank Tyson collected 28 Aussie scalps in 1954-55
and the man known as 'Typhoon' had the benefit of sending down eight-ball overs.
Anderson also became the second-youngest Englishman to take 200 Test wickets after Sir Ian Botham when he reached that milestone during the third Test in Perth.
One of the few bright moments for Australia during the series also provides one of the more unusual records to come out of this Ashes series.
"I was quite amused to see Peter Siddle become the first bowler to take a Test hat-trick on his birthday," says Samson.
"I have a query on my database which has youngest bowlers to take hat-tricks and it flagged it up, which makes for a nice little fact to use."
Australia's only truly consistent performer throughout the series - Mike Hussey - provides their only other positive record of note, with his half-century in the second innings in Perth making him the first batsman to record six successive Ashes fifties.
Beyond that, the landmarks make unpleasant reading for Australian eyes: on top of the unprecedented number of innings defeats is their slump to two for three in Adelaide, which represents their worst start to a Test in 60 years, and their total of 98 in their first innings in Melbourne was their lowest Ashes total at the MCG and their lowest completed first-innings score in a home Ashes Test since 1888.
Moving forward, England's next big target is the 50-over World Cup, taking place in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from 19 February to 2 April.
If they are to succeed in the tournament it will represent further history as they have never previously won the 50-over event.
"There is a real chance England could win the 50-over World Cup," claims Samson.
"There are two things about them that impressed me this series: they are very well organised and each player knows his role in the team and they also have strength in depth.
"Stuart Broad is out and Chris Tremlett comes in, and Steven Finn drops out for Tim Bresnan. If they wanted to bring in another batsman they could have picked Eoin Morgan, who I'm sure would have done well.
"In addition, they are a relatively young side as well and most of the team will probably play in the next Ashes. Australia, by contrast, will lose a number of big players like Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey."
Beyond the World Cup is England's ongoing quest to become the number one Test side in the world, a status currently held by India, who drew the recent three-Test series at second-ranked side South Africa.
England will be able to test themselves against the best when they face India this coming summer, while Samson feels the contest between Strauss' men and his own native South Africa would be a fascinating contest.
"South Africa don't have the depth of bowling that England have," admits Samson. Steyn and Morkel are a fantastic opening attack and on their day can bowl anyone out, but there's not much support for them so England have an advantage there.
"It is fairly evenly matched on batting as both have strong line-ups. It would be a good series."
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