England will aim to beat Australia early on day five so the partying can begin in earnest, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 06/01/11 9:21am
The last rites have all but been performed in Sydney and Paul Collingwood will bow out of Test cricket in the best possible way on Friday - as part of an Ashes-winning England side.
For a few minutes it looked as though England might wrap up this final Test inside four days but Australia, 151 runs behind with just three wickets left at stumps, succeeded - if that's the right word - in prolonging their torture.
Perth aside, they've been completely humiliated this winter by an England side that has posted four innings totals over 500 - a feat few teams achieve in a series.
Today it was Matt Prior's turn to hammer home England's initiative - his maiden Ashes century, which came off 109 balls, providing a dashing example of his uninhibited stroke-play.
Not only has he finished his series with the bat as strongly as a return of 252 runs at 50.40 suggests, but his wicket-keeping has been immaculate.
He's come a long way from the player who shelled those catches off Ryan Sidebottom in Sri Lanka in 2007, showing what can be achieved through sheer dedication and hard work.
It's staggering to think that a wicketkeeper of his calibre can't get into the one-day side but such is England's embarrassment of riches in this department.
The same can't be said of Australia's seam unit, which has looked largely toothless in this series despite two six-wicket hauls for Peter Siddle.
I couldn't believe how poor Australia were in this area when I commentated on their Tests against Pakistan last summer, a short series in which Marcus North and Shane Watson ended up taking most of the wickets.
The writing was on the wall and little has improved since then.
While plenty of credit must go to Mitchell Johnson for producing that stunning display in Perth, his inconsistency has been staggering while Ben Hilfenhaus and Siddle have largely been straight up and down.
The difference between the two attacks was highlighted today when James Anderson and Tim Bresnan both managed to reverse swing the ball - an ability that mostly comes down to technique and one's wrist position on delivery.
England's seamers, who all seem to get on very well with bowling coach David Saker, have worked extremely hard on this aspect of their game.
There were real concerns before this series started about Anderson's potency with the Kookaburra ball because of his performance four years ago when he took five wickets at an average of 82.
Since then he has matured magnificently in every way and to date has 23 wickets to his name this series; by way of contrast, Hilfenhaus has seven at almost 60.
Most of Australia's batsmen got a start second time around but they wilted under the unrelenting pressure created by Graeme Swann and the seamers.
Swann's series figures aren't going to look great but he has succeeded in blocking up one end, thereby allowing Andrew Strauss to rotate the rest of his attack at the other to the best possible effect.
And on occasions when there has been a partnership to break, Paul Collingwood has stepped up.
This, though, is definitely the right time for him to quit Test cricket and I applaud him for making such a big decision in the best interests of the team.
Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher told him very early on in his career what was required at the top level if he was to get the most out of his ability.
As a result he altered his lifestyle, worked very hard on his skills and became superbly fit - changes that have helped him become a highly valued member of the side.
Although he still averages over 40 in Test cricket, he's been scratching around at the crease for the last 12 months or so.
He's made great contributions in other areas, most noticeably his top draw fielding and the overall professionalism he brings to the side, but he has become the weak link in England's batting.
It's almost as if his monumental effort to save the Cardiff Test in 2009 took everything out of him.
I'm sure he appreciates the faith that the selectors have shown in him throughout the series but he's sensible enough to realise that it's time to make way for a younger man.
Big challenges still lie in store - most immediately captaining England in T20 cricket and then trying to be part of a successful team at the World Cup.
Beyond that I can't see him going back to Durham and playing four-day cricket; instead, I expect he will travel play as much one-day cricket around the world as he can and good luck to him if that's the path he takes.