Ashes: England side yet to peak, says Andrew Strauss
Fifth Ashes Test, Sydney (day five): England 644 beat Australia 280 & 281 by an innings and 83 runs TMS highlights online (UK only) and day's review on the
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Captain Andrew Strauss said England's Ashes-winning heroes have yet to reach their peak after meting out a 3-1 series thrashing to Australia.
Success down under has raised hopes that England - ranked third in the world - can challenge for the number one spot, held by India.
"It is a very good achievement to come out here and win," said Strauss.
"But the majority of the team are going to be hitting their peak time in the next couple of years."
England's emphatic 3-1 victory - their first in Australia for 24 years - was sealed courtesy of an innings and 83-run win in Sydney.
All three of England's victories were achieved by an innings margin, the first time Australia had suffered such an ignominious fate on home soil.
But with home Test series against Sri Lanka and India to come this summer, Strauss is determined that the side does not stand still and bask in their achievements of the last six weeks.
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"We've always got to be thinking about how we can improve and get better and hopefully one or two guys will be sticking their hands up and saying 'I can add something to this team as well'," he said.
"While I'm captain of the England side, you're not doing your job if you're not looking ahead to what's coming up and trying to keep the guys improving and going forward.
"People will now have high expectations of us, and we're going to have to work very hard to live up to them. But we're as confident as I've ever seen in an England team."
Strauss feels that many of England's players can build on special performances throughout this series.
The captain's opening partner Alastair Cook was named man-of-the-series after top-scoring with 766 runs at and average of 127.66, which is second only to Wally Hammond's 905 in 1928-29 for most runs for England in a series in Australia.
James Anderson's series-leading 24 wickets was the most by any England bowler since Frank Tyson took 28 in 1954-5, while wicketkeeper Matt Prior took 23 catches in the series and hit the fastest century for England since Ian Botham in 1981 with his hundred off 109 balls in Sydney.
"For me the most impressive thing is the number of runs we've scored consistently which has been a bit of a weakness for us in the past," Strauss said.
"In that sense I'm excited about what we can achieve in the future.
"For the bowlers to be able to perform like that day in day out over five Test matches, is an exceptional effort.
"It's when you most need people to stand and deliver and you're always wondering at the back of your mind, are people going to do that? But you've seen the guys have all done that."
England's success also stems from the strength of their squad.
Chris Tremlett excelled as replacement for the injured Stuart Broad, taking 17 wickets at 23.35, while Tim Bresnan was drafted in to superb effect for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests, claiming 11 wickets at 19.54.
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"We've got some good depth and we're going to need it because the schedule is very tight and there are going to be injuries," admitted Strauss.
"Other guys are going to put their hands up and want to be part of the team."
Friday's success means England fans no longer have to hark back to the exploits of Mike Gatting's 1986-87 tourists to find a team good enough to win an Ashes series in Australia.
And Strauss was only too aware of the importance of ending that long wait.
"Now we have done it, I think we can give a big sigh of relief and be very proud of what we have achieved, because not many sides have come out here and won - and certainly not many as emphatically as we did in the end," he added.
The win in the fourth Test in Melbourne allowed England to retain the Ashes urn, but England were determined not to drop their guard in Sydney - even though Strauss was not necessarily expecting his team to win by an innings again.
"Until an Ashes series is finally over you've always got half an eye on what's to come - so even after Melbourne we were still very conscious that we wanted to finish the series on a high and show people we wanted to win the series," he stated.
"I didn't expect to win three Test matches by an innings, but what happens over the course of a series is that once one side gets on top and wins emphatically once or twice, it is very hard to come back at them.
"Their confidence is high, yours is lower, and the teams sort of drift apart. That's maybe where we got to in this Test match and it's a great testament to what happened earlier in the series."
Although England were well supported in Australia, Strauss was also aware of the numbers of cricket-lovers back home depriving themselves of sleep to follow his team's success.
"It's hard to appreciate what it's like back in England," he said. "You get text messages through, people saying 'this is amazing' and that they haven't had any sleep for seven weeks.
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"It's a brilliant thing for English sport when we do well, in cricket and other sports. It does give everyone a lift, certainly in the bleak midwinter."
Strauss is only the third England captain - after Sir Len Hutton and Mike Brearley - to win an Ashes series both home and away.
However, the Middlesex man was cautious not to be too bold in declaring he will be national captain when England defend the urn on home turf in 2013.
"I think the more you do the job, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you develop your tactics, your thinking and the way you interact with people," he reflected.
"Definitely experience accounts for a huge amount. I've been doing the job for a couple of years now, hopefully there's a couple left there as well.
"But I think when I retire, I'll sit back and think this was one of the most special times of my career, definitely."
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