Nottingham: England captain Alastair Cook said he didn’t think his side were ready to win the Ashes after an innings and 78-run victory in the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge on Saturday saw them regain the urn.
This win, completed inside three days as was England’s eight-wicket success in the third Test at Edgbaston, gave Cook’s men an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match Ashes series. (England Thrash Australia)
It came a year and a half after they returned from being whitewashed 5-0 in Australia with Cook — despite a personal slump in the opening batsman’s form — on hand for a rebuilding process which saw England axe star batsman Kevin Pietersen and bring in Australian Trevor Bayliss as coach in place of the sacked Peter Moores before the start of this series. (Michael Clarke to Retire From International Cricket)
“From the team’s point of view to win like we’ve done is just beyond belief,” Cook told reporters as he savoured an Ashes series win completed inside 14 days.
“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. (Root Climbs to No.1 Spot in Test)
“We have won really critical moments and the players have really stepped up which shouldn’t surprise me but it has,” he added.
Cook was not alone in his doubts when, after England won the first Test by 169 runs in Cardiff, Australia hit back with a 405-run success at Lord’s.
But then came Edgbaston and afterwards despite missing the injured James Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, at Trent Bridge, Cook’s men skittled Australia out for just 60 in their first innings, with Stuart Broad taking a Test-best eight for 15 on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
“I know it sounds a bit silly when you are 2-1 up but the pressure was on that first morning,” said Cook.
“Every one of those guys can be very proud about the way they have handled the pressure, clearly led by Stuart.
“To bowl a team out for 60 you’ve pretty much won the game…The guys stood up to the pressure without Jimmy leading the bowling attack.”
Man-of-the-match Broad was on target right from the first over of the match, taking his 300th Test wicket with the third ball of the game.
The paceman paid tribute to the input of Bayliss and the ‘getting to know you’ training camp the squad had with their new coach in Spain just prior to the Ashes that was organised by England managing director and former Test captain Andrew Strauss.
“In my wildest dreams I never thought we would be 3-1 up here at Trent Bridge,” said Broad.
“Maybe we should start every series with a golfing trip if Straussy wants to do it!”
– Brilliant Bayliss –
Another of Bayliss’s important contributions was to suggest that after the match at Lord’s, where a slow pitch without any sideways movement had played into Australia’s hands, that what England needed was to play on classic English pitches which seamed rather than just the dead tracks officials had seemingly ordered in advance.
“Trevor Bayliss has only just turned up, so let’s not give him too much credit,” joked Cook, before adding: “No, he’s been brilliant.
“I had to take a big step forward as captain. I am quite stubborn and it took a while.”
Bayliss, the first Australian to coach England, had plenty of ‘inside knowledge’ to impart from his time coaching New South Wales and the Sydney Sixers.
However, he said: “It’s a hairs on the back of the neck situation. There’s no mixed emotions.
“The England team should be very proud of their performance.
“I know how good these Australia players are.”
As for his own role, Bayliss said: “I just do things the way I’ve always done them. I say to the players ‘Go out and play your own game’ and that’s something I try to stick to as a coach.”