Chris Waters: Teamwork proves to be the vital ingredient for England

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IT was thoroughly fitting that Tim Bresnan took the wicket that saw England retain the Ashes in Melbourne.

Not because the Yorkshireman was necessarily the tourists' best bowler at the MCG; that distinction arguably belonged to Chris Tremlett.

But Bresnan's coup de grace – which sealed match-figures of 6-75 – highlighted why England retained the Ashes.

For it was very much a triumph for good, honest teamwork – the sort invariably required to prevail Down Under and which Australia have so far failed to produce.

Prior to this series, one would have got long-odds on Bresnan applying the finishing touch to England's first Ashes success in Australia for 24 years.

The 25-year-old was hardly certain to play – and possibly would not have done had Stuart Broad's series not ended with a torn stomach muscle during the Adelaide Test.

However, after Tremlett stepped into Broad's shoes so seamlessly that one wondered where he has been these past few years, Bresnan grasped his chance in impressive style.

In doing so, he followed Tremlett and the likes of Steven Finn, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in stepping up to the plate in the face of serious question marks about their talent and temperament which have hopefully been answered once and for all.

In my humble estimation, this is not yet a great England team – at least not by the standards of Australia and India sides of recent years, let alone teams of sepia vintage. But it is most definitely a team – as opposed to a hotchpotch of individuals pulling in different directions – and one with the ability and aspiration to get even better.

On a lesser scale, a fierce commitment to teamwork played a huge part last summer in Yorkshire's metamorphosis from perennial relegation strugglers to County Championship title challengers.

Yorkshire, too, would not yet class themselves a great side, but they possess echoes of England's resourcefulness and a determination to make the most of their parts – attributes that could carry them far.

Bresnan, in many ways, is the archetypal team man.

Many esteemed observers – Michael Atherton included – have contended, quite reasonably, that Bresnan is a high-class county cricketer as opposed to a potentially top-notch Test player.

Bresnan possesses neither excessive pace nor an obvious X-factor that marks him down as a first-choice pick (not even after his brilliant performance at the MCG), although it would be a harsh call indeed were he dropped for Sydney, where the ineffectual Paul Collingwood should rightly make way for Finn or Monty Panesar. But Bresnan has an abundance of fighting spirit, a willingness to work tirelessly for the cause and the sort of self-motivation that captains and coaches can only dream about.

Allied to his burgeoning ability with the ball, many might have to revise their assessment of what he is capable of at England level during the next few years.

The fruits of England's teamwork – and Australia's over-reliance on a handful of individuals – is perfectly reflected in the series averages.

England have two players averaging over 100 (Cook and Jonathan Trott), two more over 50 (Kevin Pietersen and Bell), and one more (Andrew Strauss) averaging above 40.

Australia, on the hand, have only three players (Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson) averaging over 24, while pace bowler Peter Siddle (18.16) has a superior average to Ricky Ponting (16.14).

The bowling stats are similarly revealing.

Discounting Bresnan, who has rocketed to the top of the averages after just one match, England have two frontline bowlers (Tremlett and James Anderson) averaging under 30 and two more (Finn and Graeme Swann) averaging under 38.

In contrast, Australia have only three frontline bowlers (Ryan Harris, Siddle and Mitchell Johnson) averaging less than 35, while Ben Hilfenhaus averages 73.50 and Watson 87.00.

Xavier Doherty (three wickets in two Tests) and Doug Bollinger (one wicket in one Test) both average over 100, highlighting Australia's lack of bowling depth – which is hardly a problem that England possess.

In no department of the game has England's team ethic been more noticeable than in their fielding.

Whereas Australia's work has sometimes been ropy, England's has been consistently impressive – highlighted by Collingwood's flying slip catch to dismiss Ponting during the Perth Test, surely the champagne moment of the series to date.

It is a source of wonder to many that Collingwood has carved out a long Test career with such a modicum of natural ability.

However, for all his shortcomings, the Durham man is another street-fighter and quite possibly the world's most proficient fielder.

England's team philosophy has stemmed right from the top.

Strauss and head coach Andy Flower have plotted this series with perhaps greater thoroughness than any England tour in history, insisting on the right amount of warm-up games and proper preparation.

Their meticulous, no-stone-left-unturned approach has been impressive even down to allowing the likes of Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth – members of the England Performance Programme which toured Australia pre-Christmas – to undertake 12th man duties during the Tests.

Such players can only benefit from their exposure to the all-inclusive nature of Strauss's Team England.


Graeme Swann: It's been an amazing series. It's fluctuated so wildly. After the hammering we got in Perth it took a mammoth effort to come back.

I think the difference to me is we had a few more guys in good nick with bat and ball. They have some unbelievable players but Ricky Ponting has not had a good score, how we've managed that I'll never know and he's one of the best players going.

I was hoping I'd take the last wicket, but it's fitting that 'Bres' got it. I'm over the moon.

I said before I wouldn't bother if I didn't take a wicket in the series as long as we won it.

Matt Prior: I'm almost speechless at the support.

This is a hugely special moment, doing a lap of honour at the MCG.

To retain the Ashes here is massively special and all of these people have travelled a long way to come and support us. It's fantastic.

Jimmy Anderson: The Barmy Army have been fantastic throughout this trip and have made a lot of Australian grounds feel like home for us.


Darren Gough: At this moment in time England have got the best team in the world.

This is the best squad England have had for a long, long time. It's not just 11 players, they've got 16 players who could come into the side and do a job. It's getting quite embarrassing for Australia.

Their batting line up is so fragile. It's strange to see them playing so badly. We've been on the end of some beatings over the years and hopefully they'll go on and win 3-1. I'm desperate for them to do that. It would be total dominance.

Angus Fraser: The challenge for England is to make sure there is no hangover after this as they go to Sydney.

To win in Australia is what Andrew Strauss will want to do to join the captains who have won down there. It's a case of allowing the players a couple of days off and then getting focused on producing another five days of good cricket.

Winning in Australia makes legends of you and I'm sure Strauss wants to be seen in that company and the players want to be talked about in the same way as Mike Gatting's side.


Andy Flower: Of course, I am very proud and the team is very proud of what they have achieved here and justifiably so.

But there is still another game in this series and now is perhaps not the time to be looking back and patting each other on the back. We want to win the final game and wrap up the series with a win. We certainly do not want to lose that game.

David Saker (England bowling coach): Jimmy Anderson's improved his game so much that he's either No 1 or No 2 in the world. Obviously, Dale Steyn is a class bowler but I think Jimmy has learnt to be a bit more defensive than Steyn. It's neck and neck for those two as the best fast bowlers in the world.

When you have (Andrew) Flintoff leaving, (Steve) Harmison leaving, (Ryan) Sidebottom leaving, he all of a sudden became the leader. He was 28 and hadn't played a great deal of Test cricket in Australia, but he's led us brilliantly.

What he's taught the rest of the fast-bowling group is to be patient and bowl in good areas because you'll get the results.