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Ashes: Andrew Strauss wants England series victory

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Andrew Strauss on Ashes 'holy grail'

Captain Andrew Strauss has urged his England side to win the Ashes series after victory in the fourth Test ensured they retained the urn.

The tourists lead 2-1 with only the fifth and final Test to come.

"It would be a damp squib if we didn't go on and win in Sydney," Strauss told BBC Sport after his team's victory in Melbourne by an innings and 157 runs.

"We are going to enjoy today but it's back on the horse again in Sydney and hopefully we can make it 3-1."

Former England bowler Angus Fraser said a series win - emulating the achievements of Mike Gatting's side in 1986/87 - would give added kudos to Strauss and his team.

"Winning in Australia makes legends of you as it does not happen very often," said the Middlesex director of cricket.

It's great for me but we all know a captain is nothing without guys in the side who stand up and deliver under pressure

England captain Andrew Strauss

"I'm sure Strauss wants to be seen in that company and the players want to be talked about in the same way as Gatting's side."

Victory in Melbourne means England have successfully retained the Ashes for the first time since that 1986/87 tour down under.

They also have the opportunity to become the first England side to register three victories in a single Ashes series in Australia since Mike Brearley led the tourists to a crushing 5-1 win in 1979, although the hosts were weakened by defections to Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket competition.

Strauss was a member of the England side thumped 5-0 in the last Ashes series in Australia four years ago, an event which he described as the "lowest point" of his career.

He insisted England had learnt lessons from Australia's approach then and used them to their advantage.

"The one thing that struck me as an opening batsman was the feeling of being suffocated from both ends all the time," he said.

"I think that was the basis of our strategy out here, to make sure that Australia never got away from us. If we did that well, that would create wickets.

"If anything, that series showed us that it's going to be tough work out here and if we expect to turn up and win, we're naive."

Michael Vaughan, the 2005 Ashes-winning captain, believes England can build on the success of the current tour to be recognised as the strongest side in world cricket.

Gatting urges England to secure series win

"England will probably be the third best team in the world after this series but they're on their way to being number one," said Vaughan.

"We're still on an upward curve and we need to be real because we've only beaten the fourth best team in the world, but it's still an amazing feat to know we've come down under and played such an impressive brand of cricket.

"There has been a real ruthlessness in beating Australia in two games. England are a good unit with lots of young players and in four years' time I would think the majority of this squad will be back."

According to Gatting, it is that group strength which enabled England to retain the urn.

"To win in Australia you have to play as a team," said the former England captain. "It's not just any one person who will win you the Ashes or make a huge difference.

"Everybody has to compete out there because you're battling against a team who are used to winning in their own back yard.

"But England are very well led, very well coached and very well prepared."

Strauss paid tribute to all 12 of England's backroom staff and their meticulous methods, which ensured the squad were completely ready for the rigours of the tour.

Led by team director Andy Flower, fielding coach Richard Halsall has turned England into a slick catching unit while Australian bowling coach David Saker has given the pace attack fresh impetus and an inside knowledge of bowling conditions in his home country.

"All of the stuff that you don't see has been crucial for us winning this series," added Strauss.

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"The fielding work we have done over the last 18 months, the planning that Andy Flower and David Saker have put into things.

"They deserve this just as much as the players. To come out here and retain the Ashes will live long in all our memories.

"It's great for me but we all know a captain is nothing without guys in the side who stand up and deliver under pressure.

"I'm not going to take the credit for this. It's not my victory, it's the team's victory."

England had made one change from the 267-run defeat in Perth, replacing fast bowler Steven Finn with fellow seamer Tim Bresnan.

The Yorkshireman repaid the faith of England's selectors with a superb six-wicket display, including the key dismissals of Shane Watson, captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in quick succession during the final session of the third day.

Graeme Swann
The massive difference for me was we have a few more guys in nick with bat and ball

England's Graeme Swann

The 25-year-old took the wicket of last-man Ben Hilfenhaus to spark the jubilant celebrations across the MCG turf.

"He ripped out the top of their order and it was fitting that he was bowling at the end for taking that wicket," said England spinner Graeme Swann.

Four of England's top six batsmen have scored centuries so far, while only Hussey and Brad Haddin have notched three-figure scores for the hosts.

Key men Ponting and vice-captain Michael Clarke have endured poor series with the bat, an important factor according to Swann.

"The trick is if someone is not in great form not to let them get out of that rut," he said. "Our seamers continued to put the ball in the areas they don't like."

And he added: "The massive difference for me was we have a few more guys in nick with bat and ball."

England batting coach Graham Gooch also highlighted the miserable batting form of Ponting as a key factor in England's success.

"We talked about targeting Ponting as captain," said Gooch, a former England skipper. "If you undermine him and his performance you undermine Australia.

"He is an iconic player, one of the best of the last decade and a half and that's been a major factor in England retaining the Ashes. They have to go to Sydney and keep that up."

The fifth and final Test begins in Sydney on 3 January.



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see also
England seal win to retain Ashes
29 Dec 10 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
29 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Justin Langer column
29 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Defiant Ponting vows to fight on
29 Dec 10 |  Australia
Fourth Ashes Test in photos
29 Dec 10 |  England
Harris ruled out for three months
29 Dec 10 |  Australia
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
England complete Adelaide triumph
07 Dec 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Broads reflect on England triumph
29 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Swann vows to celebrate England win
29 Dec 10 |  Cricket


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