Gatting applauds Pietersen
Mike Gatting applauded Kevin Pietersen’s last-day heroics after being unshackled of his tag as the last English captain to win an Ashes series.
England’s 2-1 series triumph, secured by the drawn fifth Test at The Oval, means England are now the team in possession of the treasured urn.
It was Gatting whose side won by the same margin on their 1986-87 tour of Australia, since when teams led by Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh left England feeling like they had an inferiority complex.
Gatting experienced the mixed emotions of the fifth day along with the 23,000 packed into the ground, and when England were 127 for five at lunch, he feared Australia would sneak the win which would ensure a drawn series and keep the Ashes in their hands.
“I thought we were really struggling,” admitted Gatting.
“But the great thing about this England team is that they always seem to have a special performance ready to do what is required.
“That is what happened again - a really special innings from Kevin Pietersen to finish a great series as it should have been.
“I just wish it [an Ashes series win] had come earlier, because it would have meant England would be making progress earlier.
“But what is pleasing is that this England team is a young one as well as a talented one, and the future looks good for English cricket.”
Pietersen’s 158 was his maiden Test hundred and took the game away from the tourists.
“It takes a very good team to win any five-match series,” said former England captain Graham Gooch.
“This is not a one-off occasion or one-off performance.
“Any win in a five-match series reflects great credit, and to beat the world champions is a brilliant effort.”
Richie Benaud bowed out of commentating in England, receiving an ovation from the crowd on the closing day.
The 74-year-old former Australia captain was confident he had gone out on a high, from a professional perspective.
“This has been a great series, the best I have seen,” he said.
“Australia have been beaten by a very good England team - but they will soon be back. There are lots of good young cricketers in Australia, and the selectors have some work to do.
“I am not sure how many more players England have who could come into their side if they need extra personnel, through injury or whatever. We shall see.”
Another former captain of the home side, Tony Greig, said: “It’s been a great day for England and they have really deserved it.
“It’s been a brilliant summer and I reckon the next series Down Under is going to be fantastic too.”
Rod Marsh, the former Australia wicket-keeper and more recently ECB National Academy director, added: “It’s been a great series. England had to work hard and they’ve got their reward for some exceptional performances.”
Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott added: “Catches win matches and if Shane Warne had caught that one on Monday (Warne dropped Pietersen early in his innings) we would have lost.”