Shane Warne says Australia can take plenty of positives from the 2013 Ashes, despite losing the contest 3-0.
Michael Clarke's charges failed to clutch the urn for the third successive series, following defeats at Trent Bridge, Lord's and Emirates Durham ICG, and draws at Old Trafford and in the final clash at The Oval.
However, legendary Australia leg spinner Warne says the performances of some of the visitors' batsmen as the summer has progressed offers optimism ahead of the return Ashes Down Under this winter.
"To win 3-0 flatters England but they deserved to win the series as Australia haven't been good enough in key sessions," said the Sky Sports commentator, who took 708 wickets from his 145 Test matches.
"However, Australia are in a better position now than at the start of the series; Steven Smith and Chris Rogers have got better and better and Australia seem to have found a spot for Shane Watson, too, at number three.
"They need to improve, but they have found out about some players and know what their best XI is ahead of the return bout this winter - and I think the next series will be closer than this one."
Clarke added excitement to proceedings at Surrey's abode on Sunday by declaring his side's second knock on 111-6 at tea, and giving England the chance to chase a total of 227 from 44 overs to win the series 4-0.
Bad light scuppered the home team's efforts and play ended with Alastair Cook's outfit stuck on 206-5 - an innings that Kevin Pietersen (62 from 55 balls) added particular sparkle to - from exactly 40 overs.
But Warne paid tribute to Clarke for instigating a thrilling end to the Test match summer and for the way he has skippered the Antipodeans over the last few months, albeit in a losing cause.
"Clarke has led Australia fantastically throughout this series and without his imagination and flair and risking losing in an attempt to win, we wouldn't have had what happened today," said Warne.
"I know wins and losses count against your name but I don't think he has missed a trick this summer in terms of tactics and bowling changes - though he would have liked a few more runs!"
The Oval crowd, meanwhile, voiced their displeasure when umpires Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena called a halt to the game and the duo were booed as they stepped up to collect their medals at the presentation ceremony.
Warne's fellow Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain refused to criticise the officials, but did suggest that the International Cricket Council (ICC) needs to review its guidelines to ensure that play continues if at all possible
"To walk off in the last 15 minutes after five days is not good enough," said ex-Essex player Hussain, who captained England between 1999 and 2003.
"I don't blame the umpires because they applied the letter of the law and got it spot on, as they have done over this Test match after a tough series for umpires, but once the floodlights come on you should stay on."
Andrew Strauss added: "We were right at the business end of the game where one miss-field might be the difference between winning and losing and at some point it is too dark to play.
"The question is whether THAT was too dark considering we are in the entertainment business and had 20,00 people in the ground and millions watching worldwide."
Click here to relive the moment England lifted the Ashes urn.