Strauss hails team effort
Andrew Strauss paid tribute to the collective performance of his England side after they retained the Ashes with a magnificent victory at the MCG.
The tourists dismissed Australia for 258 on the fourth morning in Melbourne to claim an innings-and-157-run triumph that puts them 2-1 up in the series with one match to play.
Strauss will be the first England captain to return from Australia with the urn since Mike Gatting in 1987, but the 33-year-old was keen to share praise with his team-mates when he spoke after the game.
“A captain is nothing without a team that goes out and performs, so this is a great result for the team more than myself,” said Strauss.
“The guys had to stand up. It wasn’t about one player winning this Ashes, it was about all 11 players delivering at different times and I think we have seen that throughout the series.
“There have been performances from all over the team and that’s what you need if you are going to be consistent.
“It’s an outstanding achievement to retain the Ashes here. We’re still conscious that we want to win in Sydney and win the series but we’re a very happy camp today.”
Strauss, who took over the captaincy at the start of last year a few months before Andy Flower was appointed team director, added: “We did a lot of planning before the series and we had a pretty clear idea in our own heads of what we wanted to do.
“It’s not just been on this tour. The workload has gone in over the last 18 months or so and a huge amount of credit has to go to Andy Flower and the backroom staff for getting us so well prepared.
“It’s very reassuring to have such a good backroom staff and even more so to have players that are able to come out and deliver under pressure.”
The win arrived 37 minutes before lunch, with more than five sessions to spare, on the back of a supreme collective bowling effort - led by Tim Bresnan and his match figures of 6-75 - and Jonathan Trott's unbeaten 168.
Australia never remotely threatened to come up with a worthwhile response despite some late defiance from Brad Haddin, who was unbeaten on 55 today.
"The pressure of the situation - a Boxing Day Test, massive Test match, huge atmosphere, Ashes on the line - for the bowlers to perform the way they did on the first morning was outstanding," Strauss said.
"‘Trotty’ then stood up with the bat, because we realised this was our chance to hammer it home.
"From that position, it was always going to be hard not to win the game."
England must avoid defeat at Sydney to win the series, but they have already accomplished the first part of their mission by keeping hold of the urn they won at home 16 months ago.
"Winning the Ashes in Australia has always been a bit of a Holy Grail for English sides," said Strauss.
"We haven't won the series yet, but have retained the urn - which was one of our primary goals.
"The players deserve everything they get, because they've stood up when it matters.
"The back-room staff have prepared us well, and we sit here today feeling like a lot of hard work has paid dividends for us."
Strauss challenged his team to take another step towards their ultimate goal of becoming the number one ranked team in the world.
“It’s easy to get carried away with this but the fact of the matter is the urn is coming home with us,” he underlined.
“That’s something we really wanted to achieve at the start of the tour and hopefully we can now go on and win the series as well.
“I think we have a lot of the ingredients in place (to be successful). We’ve got a settled side and we’ve got some guys that are gaining some useful experience, but there’s a lot of hard work to do.
“Next summer we’ve got the likes of India coming over, that’s going to be a big test for us again, but we can go on and get a lot better than this, definitely.”
As well as looking forward, Strauss also reflected on the highs and lows of this fluctuating series.
After the drawn opener at Brisbane, England won by an innings in Adelaide before Australia drew level at Perth.
"Two of the Tests we've played (in Australia) have been two of the best I've been involved with," Strauss added.
"We've played some outstanding cricket - obviously Perth was a bit of a come back down to earth and a reminder that we aren't the finished article yet.
"You turn up in Australia knowing it will be hard work, so the guys have dug really deep and deserve what they've got so far. It's immensely satisfying."