Heroes to a man
England fully deserve their place in Test history for the emphatic manner of their Ashes win, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 07/01/11 8:23am
England are true sporting heroes for winning the Ashes in such a tremendous manner.
An incredible team ethic has underpinned everything Andrew Strauss and his players have achieved and I doubt we've ever sent a closer-knit squad to Australia.
The emphatic 3-1 result - achieved with no less than three victories by an innings - is exactly what English cricket needs at a time when there are constant questions about the direction our game is going to take.
There are plenty of people out there tolling the death knell for Test cricket but this series has kept the five-day game at the forefront of people's minds - non-cricket and cricket fans alike.
Never underestimate the feel-good factor that comes from sporting success, particularly in these austere times.
Most pleasingly, this is a side full of great role-models.
We all remember Ricky Ponting losing his rag at Melbourne and then regretting his actions, saying the next day that it wasn't the impression he wants to give young kids.
Children tend to mimic things they see sportsmen doing on TV and Strauss and his team have been exemplary in the standards that they've set - none more so than England's shining lights in the series, James Anderson and man-of-the-series Alastair Cook.
Turn the clock back four years and these two were feeling exactly the same as Michael Clarke and the Australians are feeling now - deflated and full of self doubt.
Back in 2006/07 Anderson and Cook weren't able to handle the heat of battle in Australia but they have come back in staggering fashion to lead the wicket and run lists respectively, and by quite some distance too.
Cook's ability to spend so much time in the middle, concentrating on every ball without getting flustered or fatigued to the point of failure has been incredible.
Quite simply, he has ground the Aussies into the dirt.
Likewise, Anderson has matured as a bowler and is now the undisputed leader of the pack.
He'll be as happy as anyone that David Saker has decided to stay on for another three years as bowling coach.
Most of us had doubts before this tour about what Anderson might be able to do with the Kookaburra ball in Australia and his answered those concerns with 24 wickets at 26.
England haven't had to bowl in typical Australian conditions - there have only been a couple of red-hot days on this tour; at times it's been more like a typically-pleasant English summer, which has helped to ease the physical demands on the players.
The depth of England's bowling has also been a crucial factor - aside from Anderson, there are six other bowlers capable of doing a great job.
Amid all of the celebrations over the next few days, let's not forget the contributions that Steven Finn and Stuart Broad have made on the pitch as well as the efforts put in - largely behind the scenes - of the likes of Monty Panesar, Eoin Morgan and Ajmal Shahzad.
With Graham Onions also waiting in the wings, Saker has an incredible number of options to consider going forward.
One thing is for sure - England won't have to wait another 24 years before they win the Ashes in Australia.
This is a team on a steep upward curve on the progress graph and Andy Flower already has his eyes on the next target, the World Cup and beyond that next summer's Test series against Sri Lanka and India.
We've just seen a terrific series between the top two sides in the world - South Africa and India; now England have that No 1 spot in their sights.
That's all for another day, though. For now let's reflect on an Ashes job brilliantly done - a campaign perfectly executed by Flower and Strauss.
Congratulations lads, you fully deserve your place in history.