Sealed with a flourish
Ian Bell's stylish strokeplay and Alastair Cook's hunger for runs has wrapped up the series, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 05/01/11 9:46am
I can't see Australia, 208 runs behind with two days left, winning this Sydney Test now.
That means the series is England's and they fully deserve their long-awaited triumph because they are superior in all departments to Australia.
Ian Bell - a special player in irresistible form - and Alastair Cook, whose prolific scoring has been the bedrock of much of England's success, highlighted the point with centuries that left Australia's bowlers looking demoralised.
Those hundreds have given England licence to swing the bat on day four on a pitch that should still be pretty good for batting and thereafter Australia will have to show a lot of character to achieve respectability.
Bell's game has come on leaps and bounds since Andy Flower took the decision to drop him on the tour of the West Indies in early 2009.
Instead of sulking about carrying the drinks he sharpened up his act and that summer went back to Warwickshire and piled on the runs.
It was the jolt he needed: as soon as he was out of the side he realised what he was missing, not least the lifestyle and the camaraderie of being a modern-day international cricketer.
He has always been a stylish stroke-player but last summer he was in irresistible form, winning game after game for his county including the Clydesdale Bank 40 Trophy at Lord's.
He's carried that momentum into this Ashes series and it's baffling to think that he is still behind Paul Collingwood in the order - not that I expect that situation to last much longer.
Bell will be the first to admit that his maiden Ashes ton has been slow in arriving, but he's not the only England batsman to have struggled against Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath over the years!
Now those two Aussie legends are out of the frame it's his turn to cash in, and cash in he has.
He had a slice of luck on 67, when the fallibility of the Decision Review System worked in his favour.
It's easy to say that umpire Aleem Dar should have been brave and stuck by his decision to give Bell out caught behind.
However, he had little option but to reverse his verdict when the off-field umpire could find no evidence on 'Hot Spot' that Bell had hit the ball.
The fact that 'Snicko' - a piece of technology that I regard as even less accurate than 'Hot Spot' - later suggested Bell did nick off highlights the extent to which technology in its current format is undermining umpires.
We saw another example of this when Phil Hughes tried to claim a catch at short leg offered by Cook.
The attitude now seems to be 'we don't care if it bounced or not - technology will tell us one way or another'.
It's difficult to justify that sort of behaviour in the context of the 'Spirit of Cricket' - something the DRS is putting in jeopardy.
Cook, whose merits I wrote about yesterday, rightly survived and went on to register another magnificent century.
He and Collingwood are two of the major beneficiaries of the introduction of central contracts, in that the selectors have stuck by them through thick and thin.
There used to be a time during my career and before where four low scores in two Tests would cost you your place in the team. Not any more.
Most people would accept that Collingwood has had a fair crack of the whip and it's time for England to look elsewhere - much as they did in 2009 when Bell was out of form.
But Collingwood still seems an integral part of England's 'inner sanctum' so don't be surprised if the selectors give him another chance at Test level if he has a decent one-day series and World Cup campaign.
That's providing he doesn't call time on his Test career before then, of course.