England captain Alastair Cook says he cannot believe his team’s Ashes victory over Australia
Nottingham: England came of age to regain the Ashes with a match to spare - much to the surprise of their captain Alastair Cook. Cook admitted, after the hosts established an unassailable 3-1 lead with an innings-and-78-run victory in little more than two days at Trent Bridge, that he sensed at the start of the series they were not ready to beat Australia.
England captain Alastair Cook celebrates winning the Ashes as he leads the team around the ground during Day Three of the fourth Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
He was delighted to be proved wrong as England won the urn on home soil for the fourth successive time and dulled unwanted memories of their miserable 5-0 defeat in Australia - also under his captaincy - two winters back.
England players celebrate as Nathan Lyon, the final Australian wicket falls on Day Three of the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Saturday. England beat Australia by an innings and 78 runs to take an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. Pic/AFP
Just three more wickets were needed on Saturday as Australia were bowled out for 253 in a Test already, Cook conceded, as good as won on the first morning when Stuart Broad’s spell of a lifetime brought him astounding career-best figures of eight for 15.
Only Jim Laker has previously bettered that analysis for England in the Ashes - in the famous Old Trafford Test of 1956 - and there was no way back for Australia, after they were shot out for 60 in 18.3 overs.
Joe Root, with his second century of the series, and more career-best bowling as Ben Stokes took six for 36 in the second innings, hastened the decline of the tourists who will also lose their captain at the end of this campaign.
Cook’s opposite number Michael Clarke confirmed, as the cheers of a sell-out crowd celebrated England’s achievement, that he will retire once the series is concluded at The Oval. His sequence of 117 runs in eight innings had not helped his or his team’s cause.
It is all a far, and glorious, cry from the nagging doubts Cook entertained when the 2015 Ashes began in Cardiff exactly a month ago. “To win like we’ve done is just beyond belief,” he said.
I didn’t think we were quite ready to win the Ashes at the beginning, because I thought you needed a group of players who were match-hardened. But the guys surprised me. We have won really critical moments, and the players have really stepped up. That shouldn’t surprise me - but it has.”
England’s new Australian coach Trevor Bayliss met most of his charges, including Cook, for the first time barely two weeks before the first Test. Despite the captain’s concerns there was just one blip - an embarrassing one when Australia levelled the score at 1-1 with a 405-run trouncing of their hosts at Lord’s.
Since then, England have won the next two Tests in less than the five days one should fill - the latest without the services of their injured all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson. Cook added: “They have made big steps from guys with little experience to match-winners for England, and hardened professionals and players for England.
I know it sounds a bit silly when you are 2-1 up - but the pressure was on here, on that first morning. “The guys stood up to the pressure without Jimmy leading the bowling attack. They can be incredibly proud of their last three days’ work.” Cook called on his team, on the eve of the match, to “etch their names in history”. The players took him at his word.
Australia 60 all out (S Broad 8-15) and 253 (D Warner 64, C Rogers 52, A Voges 51 n o; B Stokes 6-36, M Wood 3-69) England 391-9 decl (J Root 130, J Bairstow 74; M Starc
6-111) Result: England won by an innings & 78 runs.
Series: England lead 3-1