By Matthew Sherry at the Kia Oval
Alastair Cook basked in the proudest moment of his career after lifting the Ashes urn for the first time as captain.
England threatened to cap their victory in the best possible fashion having moved into position to complete a chase of 227 in 44 overs following a positive declaration from Australia skipper Michael Clarke.
Yet, despite half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, the hosts were ultimately thwarted by bad light, which ensured the players were forced to leave the field with 21 required from just four overs.
That did not take the gloss off a special day for Cook, who was leading England in cricket’s biggest rivalry for the first time.
“It’s an incredible feeling (lifting the urn),” he enthused. “It’s one which happens so quickly after such long build-up in your own mind.
“At Old Trafford we knew we would be doing it, to Durham when we won them; we knew at some stage we'd be picking up the urn no matter the result here.
“It is what dreams are made of. It happened a lot quicker than I would have liked and I probably pulled a very ugly face when I picked it up. I don’t dare look at the footage.”
Speaking about how the game ended, Cook added: "Of course you understand the frustration (of the crowd), but you can also understand the other side. You understand the rules and regulations.
“Unfortunately, the officials sometimes have to take emotion out of the game and do their job and be consistently fair to both sides.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to be sitting here when we felt we could have taken those runs off the last four overs. But I understand the umpires’ decision and why it happened.”
That England won the Investec Series 3-0 was thanks in no small part to Ian Bell, who struck three priceless centuries in compiling 562 runs.
Those efforts helped secure his fourth Ashes triumph, although Bell admits his own performances make this one extra special.
Asked whether this is the best of the lot, Bell responded: “On an individual note, yes.
“Any time you win Ashes, it ranks at the top but this is always going to be number one having scored three hundreds.”
With the reverse series, which begins on November 25 at Brisbane, so close on the horizon, attention will quickly turn to the renewal of battle.
However, Cook is keen to remain in the now and enjoy a moment that will no doubt live long in his memory.
“When you go back to the start of the series, a lot of questions were asked about this England team,” he said.
“Would we be able to handle the pressure of being favourites? Would we live up to that expectation?
“To deliver under that we can have a good beer tonight and enjoy some very special scenes in the dressing room. Our families and friends are there now and those moments are very special.”
For Clarke, the difficulty is to assess a series in which Australia threatened to win four of the five Tests while keeping in mind they have not won in this format for nine matches.
“I think we take a lot of positives, especially out of the last three Test matches,” said Clarke.
“Maybe I'm biased but I think we would have won in Manchester if it didn't rain; we got close in Durham; we were in a position to win that match batting last and then, if there was no rain yesterday, we would have had a fantastic game of Test cricket.
“So I think there were some real positives to come out of the last three Test matches and I’m really pleased with the boys.”
Clarke believes, too, that Australia are just a victory away from getting back on track.
“Once we get a win up we'll run with that momentum,” he added.
England will now hope to ensure that does not come during the reverse leg Down Under.