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Tim Abraham
Sky Sports News reporter

Ashes 2013/14: England's challenge is to turn optimism into Test results

Downton and Whitaker relishing the challenge of restoring England's fortunes...

And so here we are in Sydney, England's last port of call.

This is a Test match to move on from the disappointment of an Ashes series defeat, to build for the future, the start of a new era, but always remembering there's a Test match to be won.

That was the build-up talk, anyway, and in many ways there's been a sense of a new beginning, with Alastair Cook and Andy Flower stressing they are determined to carry on and fight for the cause. Both were put on the spot about their futures after the Melbourne defeat.

Challenge

Cook determined to keep captaincy

Despite the disappointment of going 4-0 down in the series and the challenge of trying to avoid the 5-0 whitewash, there has been a fresh sense of optimism for the future, because it's back to the drawing board, knowing there are problems which need sorting out. That's the challenge ahead.

The new Managing Director of the England cricket team Paul Downton has arrived here. He starts work next month, but quite clearly during a watching brief that has involved meetings with Flower and Cook, his work is under way.

That goes for the new National Selector James Whitaker too, and talking to them during practice I sense they are both relishing the challenge; at least they know there's a big job to be done, something to get their teeth into, rather than just inheriting success. They have the chance to make an impact.

There can be no half-measures or papering over the cracks, which has been a criticism levelled at the ECB after their Ashes victory last summer, which we all know was very close despite the 3-0 scoreline.

Facilities

The SCG is one of the iconic cricket grounds, but it's a new-look arena, with an impressive new stand and Media centre that provide more great facilities and views of the cricket.

I was here for the tour match about six weeks ago, and the race to get the stand finished was well and truly on, and they have just about got there, with a few licks of paint going on around us!

But it's a great place to work, and for Sky Sports iPad users, I have given a behind-the-scenes look at the new facilities, walking into the Sky Sports commentary box, and speaking to David Lloyd who takes over the guided tour.

With so many consoles and wires around I loved it when he said he would just love to 'pull out this plug' or 'flick this switch' to see what happens. He did not satisfy his curiosity I should add.

Outplayed

In another 'behind-the-scenes' look at the SCG (which you can watch at the top of this page) I completed the 'Walk of Honour' behind the members stand which pays tribute to Aussie cricket legends, with plaques and recently-erected statues of Steve Waugh and Richie Benaud.

I tried to get over the sense of how the members can get so close to the players as the dressing rooms are practically part of the lower tier.

The last Test match of a series is always a time of personal and professional reflection.

I have been on the road since October 23rd, landing in Perth just ahead of the squad; that seems such a long time ago. They arrived as the Ashes favourites, looking for a fourth consecutive series victory over the Aussies, but quite simply England have been dramatically and comprehensively outplayed.

There has been no hiding place from Mitchell Johnson especially. England's set back will only add to the anticipation of the next series, back home in 2015, when England's mission will be to WIN BACK the Ashes.

One more interesting thought and question way before then is, given all that's gone on here, how will England line up for the first Test of the Summer this year, against Sri Lanka?

Check out the Sky Sports Ashes podcast page here or check out the podcast on itunes or by hitting this MP3 link.

Alternatively, listen on Soundcloud...