A lovely little urner
The ECB has invested heavily in 'Team England', says Bob Willis, and that backing is paying dividends.
Last Updated: 29/12/10 10:07am
Congratulations lads - you've done England proud!
We've waited a long time to taste Ashes success of such magnitude in Australia but this England side has retained the urn in exceptional style.
The anomaly of Perth aside, the team has played exceptional cricket as a unit and this will go down as a monumental day for English cricket even if Andy Flower won't be fully satisfied until England sit No 1 in the world rankings!
The fact that players with records as good as Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke haven't performed in the series just goes to show how brilliantly disciplined England's bowling has been.
This has to go down as one of the best displays I've seen by an England attack overseas for quite some time.
It is very rare indeed to possess four-front line bowlers but England are in that happy position; they have individuals who can shine but each player is just as important as the others in his own way.
Thanks to Andy Flower's meticulous planning they all know exactly what their role in the side is meant to be and although Graeme Swann hasn't got the avalanche of wickets that we've become accustomed too, he's done a fine defensive job and picked up valuable victims along the way.
This success hasn't come about by luck. The ECB has thrown an enormous amount of money and resources at the England cricket team in recent years and the administrators are savvy enough to know that they are the cash cow for the whole game.
It costs an absolute fortune to fund Performance Squads, both at Loughborough and away on tour, but investment in areas such as this is clearly paying dividends.
The same can be said for central contracts and the strength and conditioning work done with many of the players, in particular Stuart Broad and Steven Finn who have both benefitted from spells away from the game and stepped up another level as a result.
Hopefully the benefits of a healthy England side will continue to seep down into the first-class game and beyond.
This summer the top six teams in division one of the County Championship proved that they are well-balanced, professional outfits. But unfortunately the likes of Nottinghamshire, Durham and Hampshire remain head and shoulders above those sides in the lower division.
You only have to look at Phillip Hughes' performances for Middlesex to show what the overall standard of bowling is like in division two, so there is work to be done there.
I've spoken at length to Steve Harmison about this issue - and he will tell you that the gap in quality between the first and second division is massive.
If England want to maintain this production line of top-quality bowlers then they must develop further ways of nurturing new and existing talent.
You could say the same for Australia, who have been floundering in the dark for some while now.
The downside to fielding such a great side in 2006/07 was that the back-up players had to wait a long time for their chance; Mike Hussey was one batsman who was on the sidelines for an age before his opportunity came along.
As a result the side got old together and, with the standard of the Sheffield Shield not what it was, a slide was inevitable.
The fact that the selectors had to pick 17 players for the first Test of Brisbane and that they can't find a spinner of any description at all says it all.
Every country, of course, will go through problems at some stage and now it is most definitely Australia's turn.
Their demise has been all the more stark because they were top of the pile for so long and now they have been put firmly in their place by an England side that is more determined than ever to win the series.