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England win the Ashes outright
7:52am Friday 7th January 2011 in The Ashes 2010/11
Andrew Strauss can at last allow himself and his fellow 2010/11 Ashes winners to celebrate their historic achievement.
It was five minutes before noon on the final day of the series that Southampton-born former Hampshire seamer Chris Tremlett completed a mission long overdue, since Mike Gatting's tourists last won the Ashes outright here for England 24 years ago.
As Michael Beer's backward-defensive prod made only edgy contact back on to his stumps, the familar rattle was instantaneously drowned out by wild approval from the vast majority in an England-dominated crowd of almost 20,000 at the SCG.
It was the cue for scenes of richly deserved congratulations on and off the pitch as it finally became fact that this England team, unlike five others who tried since 1986/87, had beaten Australia in Australia.
Strauss had spent so much of the past month counselling against complacency and premature back-slapping, even after the Ashes were retained in the fourth Test at Melbourne.
But once his team had scored a third innings victory of a remarkable tour - on the back of another welter of runs from Alastair Cook and more admirable bowling from James Anderson et al - there was suddenly no longer any reason for restraint.
"It feels pretty special," said Strauss, recovering a little necessary composure in the moments after he had hoisted the replica run on the presentation podium and acknowledged England's delirious supporters in a heartfelt lap of honour.
"Now we have done it, I think we can give a big sigh of relief and be very proud of what we have achieved, because not many sides have come out here and won - and certainly not many as emphatically as we did in the end.
"It's a dressing room full of pride - with a bit of alcohol, I would have thought."
England knew long before start of play today that they would be taking the Ashes home via an outright series victory - and with Australia 213 for seven and still 151 runs short of avoiding an innings defeat, it was a pretty safe bet too that it would be 3-1 rather than 2-1 to the tourists.
Yet after Steve Smith (54no) and Peter Siddle (43) had blocked out the extra half-hour last night, the threat - and then reality - of rain interruptions served to prove Strauss' point that nothing can ever be taken for granted.
"Until an Ashes series is finally over you've always got half an eye on what's to come - so even after Melbourne we were still very conscious that we wanted to finish the series on a high and show people we wanted to win the series," he said.
England duly bowled Australia out for 281, though, to rubber-stamp an achievement which has exceeded all pre-series optimism.
"I didn't expect to win three Test matches by an innings," added the captain.
"But I think what happens over the course of a series - certainly what we found in [England's 5-0 drubbing in] 2006/07 is, once one side gets on top and wins emphatically once or twice, it is very hard to come back at them.
"Their confidence is high; yours is lower, and the teams sort of drift apart. That's maybe where we got to in this Test match.
"I think we were as confident as I've ever seen an England team. That's a great testament to what happened earlier in the series."
Strauss had a several-thousand-strong reminder of how much this outcome meant to the Englishmen and women present.
He knows too, though, that for millions more it will doubtless warm up a chilly morning back home. "It's hard to appreciate what it's like back in England.
"You get text messages through, people saying 'this is amazing' and that they're jet-lagged, haven't had any sleep for seven weeks.
"It's a brilliant thing for English sport when we do well, in cricket and other sports. It does give everyone a lift, certainly in the bleak midwinter.
"People will now have high expectations of us, and we're going to have to work very hard to live up to them."
While Strauss could afford to reflect with satisfaction - for a short while at least - there was no such luxury for his opposite number in this match.
Michael Clarke deputised for the injured Ricky Ponting, in trying circumstances, and proved unable to turn the tide of events.
"England have outplayed us through this series, in all facets of the game," he said.
"They've showed us discipline and execution with the ball, to make the batters play a false shot.
"With the bat, they've showed us how to go on and get big scores once you get a start.
"Throughout this series we've been extremely inconsistent.
"Certain guys have been able to take five-wicket hauls or make a century, but certainly not enough to win a big series."
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