England refuse to allow defeat to subdue their series celebrations

England refused to let the small matter of a crushing innings defeat in the final Investec Test get in the way of celebrating their 3-2 Ashes success.

Monday, 24th August 2015, 1:00 am
Yorkshires Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Adam Lyth, l-r, celebrate Englands Ashes series victory over Australia (Pictures: Philip Brown/PA).

Captain Alastair Cook conceded, after his team lost their last four wickets on day four at The Oval to go down by an innings and 46 runs, to a little disappointment, but none that would stop the champagne corks popping in the England dressing room and long into the night.

They rightly intended marking the achievement of a fourth successive home series victory over Australia, and a sell-out crowd cast aside the transient anti-climax too to lap up the occasion.

England’s 2015 Ashes superiority was built on the batting of Compton-Miller medallist Joe Root and the fine pace bowling of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes in back-to-back three-day victories at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

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It was the day after the second of those that captain Cook rang round his entire team, not just to congratulate them again but to warn the job was not quite done.

That was how it stayed despite his rallying call, England returning to London – they lost the second Test at Lord’s – with hopes of a fourth win over Australia in a home summer for the first time, only to instead bowl poorly and then bat worse here.

They responded to 481 all out with only 149 of their own and then, following on, Cook’s attempted rearguard fight came to little as they mustered 286 and Peter Siddle, conspicuously absent through the first four Tests despite favourable conditions, finished with match figures of 6-67.

Cook was rueful, but adamant too, that England have proper reason for cheer at overcoming odds which were resoundingly against them at the start of the summer.

“We had a Test match to try and win, but maybe we underestimated the emotional highs from Trent Bridge and how hard it would be to get back up to that level you really need to beat Australia,” he said.

“Of course, we’d love to be sitting here at 4-1 rather than 3-2. But credit to Australia, they showed how good a team they are and the character they’ve got.

“It’s a little bit disappointing, but I’m not going to worry about it too much [last night].”

Few will quibble with that after a series result which has taken England up to third in the world rankings, just behind Australia with South Africa at the top.

They have done so with a new coach, Australian Trevor Bayliss, who arrived barely two weeks before the series. He immediately took his Ashes hopefuls off for a bonding and catching-practice trip to Spain, where they fine-tuned game plans and motivational mantras.

“All the time in Spain it was about winning three games,” the captain added. “The mind has such a powerful effect on you as a player. For (three of) the first four games we were fantastic, and we were off the pace in this game.

“I think Jos (Buttler) summed it up [on Saturday], saying we were probably five per cent off and didn’t quite have the same intensity from both sides, but Australia played better than we did.”

Yorkshire’s Root could reflect with fair satisfaction on his man-of-the-series 460 runs, but noted too there might have been an alternative outcome had he not been dropped on nought by Brad Haddin before making 134 in England’s opening win at Cardiff.

“It could have been completely different if Brad had taken that chance, but that’s part of international cricket,” he said.

“You get opportunities and you’ve got to grasp them with both hands and make the most of it. Fortunately that day I did and managed to take that confidence and form throughout the summer.”

For the 24-year-old vice-captain, and his team-mates, it is therefore onwards and upwards.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this team and really grateful to be sat here with that little urn in front of us,” Root added.

“I think we are a side who are making small mistakes that are costing us dearly. But at the same time we are improving very quickly, and we’re very hard to beat when we’re at our best.

“If we continue to carry on that trend we’ve got a chance of being one of the best sides in the world, if not the best side in the world.”

Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen has called for Root’s Yorkshire and England team-mate Adam Lyth to be axed, branding the struggling opener “out of his depth”.

Pietersen took to Twitter yesterday, the day after Lyth’s final innings of a chastening Ashes series. The 27-year-old has averaged just 12.77 having scored 115 runs in nine innings and faces an uncertain international future.

But Pietersen’s string of posts on the subject, culminating in a claim that he could “average more than 10 batting left-handed without pads”, struck an uneasy tone.

Alex Hales, the dynamic Nottinghamshire batsman, is being tipped to replace Lyth this winter.