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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
England expects
By Tom Fordyce

The ticker-tape has settled, the last champagne been drunk and Freddie Flintoff has finally gone to bed.

England won the Ashes. Fantastic. But it will soon be time to move on.

What are the challenges that lie ahead for Michael Vaughan's team?

WIN IN PAKISTAN AND INDIA

When: October 2005-March 2006

Michael Vaughan
Vaughan looks to the future after the Ashes triumph

England have just two months rest before setting off for a tour of Pakistan that will test them in a very different way to the Ashes series.

Five years ago Nasser Hussain's side pulled off a 1-0 series win in Pakistan after a remarkable win in the last session of the Third Test, with a certain Ashley Giles taking 17 wickets in the series.

A repeat of that scoreline would suit today's team down to the ground. Prior to the 2000 triumph, England hadn't won a series in Pakistan for 39 years.

India will provide an even sterner examination when England arrive there after Christmas.

It is 21 years since England's last series win in India. Four years ago Hussain's team took a 10-wicket hammering in the first Test and never looked like reversing the deficit.

They do know victory is possible against the current Indian side, however, as Australia beat them 2-1 when they toured there a year ago.

WIN DOWN UNDER

When: December-January 2006/7

Regaining the Ashes is one thing. Retaining them - on Australian soil - will be a whole lot harder.

By the time Vaughan's men arrive Down Under in 15 months time, 20 years will have passed since Mike Gatting's team became the last England team to beat Australia on their own patch.

Both Gatting and David Gower - the last England captain before Vaughan to win the Ashes at home - see it as imperative that the current team succeed where the last four tours have failed.

Gower says: "Whatever happens in India and Pakistan, the next big challenge is Down Under."

STRENGTHEN THE WEAKNESSES

When: September 2005 onwards

England performed wonderfully to win back the Ashes, but the euphoria should not obscure the cracks that are still apparent in the team.

With respect to Ian Bell, the middle order needs strengthening - and classy candidates are hardly queuing up.

Rob Key? Tried and too often found wanting. Ed Joyce? Unproven. Owais Shah? Doesn't seem to be rated by Duncan Fletcher.

There is no spinning back-up or competition for Ashley Giles. Geraint Jones, despite his fighting attitude, is yet to convince in the wicket-keeper/batsman role.

And if Andrew Flintoff were ever injured, the entire balance of the side would be knocked for six.

WIN THE WORLD CUP

When: March-April 2007

There were signs of improvement in the Nat-West Challenge series that preceded the Ashes, but England's one-day side is still nowhere near as successful as the Test side.

England sit a lowly sixth in the current ICC one-day rankings - five places off Australia and below Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.

Whereas Australia have won the last two World Cups, England have failed to get past the group stage of the competition since 1992.

By the time of the next tournament in the West Indies, England must be capable of mounting a serious challenge to Australia's long-held supremacy.

TOP THE RANKINGS

When: 2006 onwards

Even if England win all three Tests in Pakistan, Australia will still end the year as the ICC's number one-ranked country unless they lose at home to the lowly West Indies.

So what, some might ask. What do those rankings matter when England have just demonstrated that they are a better side that the Aussies?

Plenty. The rankings take account of form over time.

Over the last three years, Australia have been the best side in the world. England are catching them - but they still need to prove themselves over a similar period of time.

MATCH THE BEST

When: the next 10 years

Rule number one for successful sporting teams: you can always do better.

It's six series since England last lost a rubber - impressive, but nowhere near the 16 series Australia went unbeaten from 2001 to 2005, let alone the 29 unbeaten series the great West Indies teams enjoyed from 1980 to 1994/5.

England have now also won six series on the bounce. Fantastic - but still one less than Steve Waugh's Australia at the start of this decade.

These aren't just bare statistics. They tell a tale of prolonged dominance, of teams that not only won but continued to evolve and succeed despite the turnover of personnel.

The last the time the Ashes changed hands, in 1989, Australia went on to dominate the world game for the next 16 years.

England must aim to do the same.





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