Aussies eye Ashes sweep

Captain Ricky Ponting has made it clear he will not relax until Australia has avenged its defeat in England last year by winning the final Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

“We want to win every game that we play,” Ponting said.

“You want to do the best you can whenever you’ve got the baggy green cap on. That’s what I’ll be saying to the rest of the guys leading up to the Boxing Day Test.”

Ponting said the team review after the loss of the Ashes last year had produced a new intensity in the Australian team.

“We’ve set a new standard for ourselves now as individual players and as a team on the way to prepare and the way to play, and it’s up to all the players to make sure we keep toeing that line.”

England crestfallen

Meanwhile in Britain, English cricket fans who couldn’t bring themselves to stay up watching or listening to the final day of the third Test woke up to the grim news.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said Ricky Ponting’s team had obviously been on a mission since losing cricket’s prized urn in 2005.

“I cannot recall seeing a team so driven and focused,” he told the BBC website.

“One can’t help but fear that their revenge will only be absolutely complete when they bury England 5-0 at Sydney over New Year.”

Former England captain Nasser Hussain said coach Duncan Fletcher, who has come under fire for his selection decisions, would face even more criticism in the wake of his team’s defeat.

“When I worked with him he got 95 per cent of selections right – that’s why England went on to win the Ashes,” Hussain told Sky Sports.

In England, The Guardian newspaper, like its British counterparts, went to print long before the final day’s play was over, but with the result beyond doubt and turned its attention to the future.

Australian PM salutes team

Prime Minister John Howard has congratulated the Australian cricket team for a “fantastic job” in winning back the Ashes.

“On behalf of every Australian I am sure, I congratulate Ricky Ponting and the boys for a magnificent victory,” Mr Howard said.

“Winning back the Ashes after only 16 months has really warmed every Australian heart, and they’ve done a fantastic job in our name.

“Congratulations and let them celebrate long and hard tonight for a well-deserved victory.”

‘Ashes too frail’ to return to England

After reclaiming the Ashes following a fifteen month “loan” to the English, Ponting says the historic urn symbolising the 124-year old cricket rivalry should stay in Australia for good.

“Surely it’s got to be too frail to fly back,” Ponting said after his side’s 206-run win in Perth.

“They’ve always said it’s been too frail for it to fly out here. … it’s been here for a month now so it’s got to be even worse.”

Ponting was referring to the fact the historic urn currently resides in Australia, winding its way around the country on a tour of capital cities during the five-Test series.

It is only the second time the urn has been to Australia, the first being in 1988 for the bicentenary celebrations.

Warne’s record

Boxing Day is guaranteed to be a huge occasion with home town hero Shane Warne needing only one wicket to become the first man in history to take 700 in Tests.

“What an amazing, remarkable milestone that will be,” Ponting said.

“Shane couldn’t even have scripted the whole thing any better. It couldn’t have worked out any better for him.

“The crowd down there is going to be huge.”

England captain Andrew Flintoff said his team was hurting but would be lifted by their own pride before the final two Tests.

England has not won a game on tour but is determined to show that it can still compete with Australia.

“It is going to be a tough couple of days … but there is a lot if lads that want to prove that we can win a Test match in Australia, prove that we can play,” he said.

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