How the Ashes were won
Sydney, New South Wales
Three innings victories. The highest total ever scored on Australian soil. A 3-1 series win that left Australia on their knees.
We all know the happy facts. But what were the key reasons behind England's remarkable Ashes triumph of 2010-11?
Graeme Swann plants a celebratory smacker on James Anderson after the victory in Sydney - photo: PA
Four years ago, England played almost no first-class cricket before the first Test at the Gabba. This time around, they played two three-day games and one four-day fixture and took them all extremely seriously. The Test batsman played all three; the first-choice bowlers played the first two and then travelled to Brisbane to acclimatise while the reserve bowlers, including Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan, honed their skills.
When England arrived down under, Australia were doing things rather differently - playing one-day cricket against Sri Lanka. They began the Test series with several players unfit (Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris) and were playing catch-up from then on.
England's picks came off every time. Both Tremlett and Bresnan attracted criticism when originally selected for the touring party, but both played pivotal roles in the eventual triumph: Tremlett took 17 wickets in his three matches, Bresnan 11 in his two. Steven Finn had been England's leading wicket-taker when he was rested after Perth, but the decision to leave him out proved to be correct.
Australia's selectors proved an unmitigated disaster. Overly influenced by the marketing department, they named their initial squad 10 days before the first Test and so had to list 17 players, more than England's entire touring party.
Xavier Doherty bombed; Bollinger was picked when unfit and, in his captain's words "hit the wall"; Phillip Hughes got the nod despite woeful domestic form and continued in exactly the same vein; Steve Smith was never a Test number six and the all-pace attack was found horribly wanting in Melbourne.
Once the nightmare of that first over duck in Brisbane was out of the way, almost everything Andrew Strauss tried worked out. His field placings were solid, his bowling plans spot on; with the bat he averaged over 40.
Ricky Ponting? He had his worst series in memory, hapless with the bat, fidgety in the field and unable to arrest his side's alarming decline.
"Ponting needed to score runs," says former England skipper and now Test Match Special summariser Michael Vaughan. "You get to the stage as a captain when you're under pressure that you start looking at too many other areas - you start looking at your PR, how the media are treating you - when fundamentally you just need to score runs.
"Ponting didn't. If he had scored his usual runs and averaged, say, 50, Australia would have had something for their bowlers to aim at. Their bowlers have been criticised a lot, but it's their top six that just hasn't worked on pitches that have been good, and Ponting should have been their leading light."
England bowled to carefully worked out plans devised by coach Andy Flower and bowling coach David Saker, based on hours of video footage and laptop analysis. They then had the skill to implement those plans.
Australia seemed unable to identify English weaknesses; they targeted Jonathan Trott's body in Melbourne, allowing him to score 80% of his runs through the leg side, and then fed Matt Prior outside off stump during his rapid-fire century in Sydney.
"For Peter Siddle not to bowl one ball round the wicket at Alastair Cook in the fifth Test, when he scored 189, is scandalous," says Vaughan.
"The result in Perth didn't actually help them. It made them produce a green wicket in Melbourne, and England's bowlers destroyed them. If they'd produced a normal wicket in Melbourne and given their batsmen a chance to get 400 in the first innings, they may have had a chance. That's an example of the sort of error England just didn't make."
RUNS ON THE BOARD
England decided before the series began that their best bet was to use scoreboard pressure to attack Australia. They delivered.
Cook scored more runs in a Test series than all but one man in history, the team compiled two of their biggest ever innings scores, and a new series record of nine centuries were scored.
The opposition? "Australia only scored 400 once in the series," says Vaughan. "Not one of their top four batsmen scored a century, the first time that has happened since 1956. They've been outclassed."
England's attack was supposed to struggle with the Kookaburra ball on Australian pitches. Instead, it dominated. With the invaluable inside knowledge of Victoria-born Saker, the fast bowlers found conventional swing early on and reverse-swing much earlier - and to a much greater extent - than any touring England team had ever done before. When the ball wasn't moving around, their relentless accuracy squeezed the life out the Aussie top order.
James Anderson's 24 wickets was the best haul achieved in Australia by an English bowler since Frank Tyson in the 1950s. Tremlett took 17 in three, Finn 16 from the same number and Bresnan 11 from two. With the exception of Perth, Australia's best just couldn't get close.
England's batsmen produced 11 century partnerships. Australia produced four.
With the ball it was the same one-sided story. There was rarely a loose end when England were bowling, the bowlers hunting in pairs to leave the opposition no room to relax, but when Australia bowled, relief was always at hand.
Never was this more obvious than in Adelaide, where Harris's hard work was wasted as Doherty and Bollinger were punished at the other end.
Richard Halsall (right) has turned England into a brilliant fielding unit - photo: Getty
CATCHES WIN MATCHES
This is undoubtedly the best England fielding side of all time, and specialist coach Richard Halsall deserves enormous praise. Collingwood took nine catches in the series, Strauss eight, Swann six, far more than managed by any Australian.
It wasn't just the number of catches either, although those were remarkable; barely any went down, and the best (Collingwood off Ponting in Perth, Strauss off the same man in Adelaide) were outstanding. England pulled off four run-outs, two of them from a man - Trott - who no-one would have had down as an ace arm, and dived and chased relentlessly.
Australia not only dropped catches (Johnson off Strauss in Brisbane the most costly) but even failed to touch them (Haddin and Watson off Strauss in Perth). They missed at least four clear run-out chances and then ran between the wickets themselves like amateurs.
In their past 11 Tests they have conceded 10 run-outs and made just four. Once the world's premier fielding unit, they are now among the weakest.
SWANN VS THE REST
Graeme Swann took 15 wickets on pitches that have broken lesser finger spinners. He did so with an economy rate of 2.72 runs an over. Australia's spinners (Doherty, Beer, North and Smith) between them took five wickets at a cost of 666 runs, beastly numbers indeed.
"When Swann has had the conditions that allow spin, he's taken wickets," says Vaughan. "When he hasn't, he has blocked an end up so the pace bowlers can all have a rest.
"Look at Adelaide. That was a massive game. Without his wickets and with that weather coming in, England would have drawn that game. They would have lost at the Waca, gone 1-0 down and then had to win the last two matches. It wouldn't have happened."
THE TEAM GAME
Every England player contributed in at least one match. They make up four of the five leading wicket-takers, have seven of the top nine individual scores and all three of the top catchers.
"Cook got man of the series, but you could pick out three or four guys," says Vaughan. "Anderson has been brilliant; Tremlett coming in has played a massive role, and Prior has been up there too. Trott at three has been great. That's what happens in good teams - someone always sticks their hand up, but it's not always the same person."
THE SIMPLE TRUTH
"The better team won," says Vaughan. "England have simply got better players.
"They're a 40% better cricket team. They think better, they play better, they have better players and better coaches.
"Australia are in denial. Until they actually realise what a poor state they're in, they're in trouble. It'll take them a while to improve as it is, but until they openly admit they need to make changes, they will struggle."