Strauss: Hard work has paid off

Andrew Strauss has cherished English cricket's 'Holy Grail' after his team retained the Ashes, to rapturous acclaim at the MCG, with an innings victory well inside four days of the fourth Test.

Tim Bresnan and Matt Prior sparked roars of approval when they combined to take the final wicket, number 11 Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind, as Australia were bowled out for 258 in their second innings to concede a 2-1 series lead.

That meant the Ashes were retained, with only the final Test to come in Sydney next week and Strauss said: "Winning the Ashes in Australia has always been a bit of a Holy Grail for English sides. We haven't won the series yet, but have retained the urn - which was one of our primary goals."

The win arrived 37 minutes before lunch, with more than five sessions to spare, on the back of a supreme collective bowling effort - led by Bresnan and his match figures of six for 75 - and Jonathan Trott's unbeaten 168.

Australia never remotely threatened to come up with a worthwhile response, despite some late defiance from Brad Haddin (55no), and Strauss spoke with evident pride at his team's achievement.

"The pressure of the situation - a Boxing Day Test, massive Test match, huge atmosphere, Ashes on the line - for the bowlers to perform the way they did on the first morning was outstanding," he said.

"Trotty then stood up with the bat, because we realised this was our chance to hammer it home.

"From that position, it was always going to be hard not to win the game."

England will need to win or draw at the SCG, of course, to actually win the Ashes for the first time in 24 years. But they have already accomplished the first, and perhaps most significant, part of their mission by keeping hold of the urn they won at home 16 months ago.

"The players deserve everything they get, because they've stood up when it matters," said Strauss. "The back-room staff have prepared us well, and we sit here feeling like a lot of hard work has paid dividends for us."