The game was the winner

WELL played England! It played brilliantly and deserved to win. Also congratulations to both the teams for the spirit in which the tough series was played.

While it was a tough and on occasions brutal examination of courage, temperament and skills of the players, they didn't lose their cool, looked as though they were enjoying it and the combativeness of each other. Perhaps this was the greatest Test series of all time as some have suggested.

May be, that is a tough call, it undoubtedly was a magnificent contest and the English team beat Australia at its own game. Australia has dominated world cricket mainly because of its brilliant bowling attack.

Such was the pressure it exerted with outstanding skill and accuracy. So good were the bowlers that few teams could hold out for long and the low scores against them made the job of batsmen so much easier.

As a result, the batsmen were seldom under pressure and runs came easily. It looked as though it would be the same in this series after Australia won the Lord's Test.

However, instead of building on that, the Australians appeared to rest on their laurels and expected England to be swept aside by its juggernaut.

However, England was much stronger than that and with excellent bowling tactics, beautifully applied by its fast quartet, made the much flaunted Australian batting line-up look ordinary while trying to counter the accurate swing bowlers.

Without being fed long hops, overpitched and poorly directed deliveries, the Aussies encountered the most disciplined bowling line-up since they ended the winning streak of West Indies in 1995.

Aligned with this was probably the most disappointing bowling produced by Australia in a decade. The poor line and length of senior bowlers Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz was unexpected and left the Australians exposed with only two bowlers, Warne and McGrath looking capable of taking wickets and restricting the scoring. Both had a fine series, but McGrath's injuries allowed him to play in only three Tests. He was badly missed.

To top it all, the Australian fielding was only a pale shadow of what it was before John Buchanan took over as coach in the late nineties.

Fielding can win matches, but it can also contribute to losses. With modern technology you would expect the coach and captain to have an unsurpassed amount of information, pinpointing the right field placing and what tactics to use against all the batsmen.

Perhaps they did, but I must admit I was often shocked by the field placings and the methods used. Admittedly it is not easy to set fields if bowlers cannot consistently drop the ball on the right spot.

England's batsmen inevitably scored over four an over and that is just not acceptable from a Test bowling attack. England surpassed even the high hopes of its ardent supporters and looked a very professional side with only fielding and wicket-keeping not up to scratch.

England dropped as many catches as the Australians, but because its attack was so good, was able to create other opportunities. Hoggard, Jones and Flintoff were outstanding and their ability to swing the ball with either orthodox or reverse swing had the Australians always on tenterhooks.

The most outstanding trait was good, old-fashioned line and length which the Australian batsmen couldn't overcome and fell to indisciplined dangerous shots.

Steve Harmison was a little disappointing. He bowled well in the Lord's Test on a quick wicket, but was very moody thereafter and seldom reached the consistent pace that was expected of him.

England's batting which looked vulnerable in the Lord's Test, was much more disciplined in the remaining Tests and always gave the bowlers enough runs to bowl against. While none of the English batsmen had a big series, they always had someone to keep the scoreboard ticking and establish a respectable total.

The great success of the series was the closeness of the matches. In this regard it ranks alongside the Australia-West Indies clash of 1960-61. Like this series the cricket played wasn't always scintillating, but the closeness made it fascinating.

Perhaps it is this factor that sets Test cricket apart from the shorter version of the game. Limited over matches require a tight finish and result to capture the imagination of the spectators.

The length of Test cricket can encourage excitement, drama, tension and the unexpected as the facets of the game change dramatically.

A tough, hard fought Test can raise tension and passion more than any other form of cricket. The unexpected became the norm and that is what made this such a fascinating series for the unforeseen kept on appearing.

This was not only players success, but also a tribute to the spectators for I don't remember seeing a series that aroused so much passion amongst the supporters.

What a pleasure it was to see in an era of sporting hooliganism, spectators of both sides generously appreciating the deeds of their opponents and at the same time entering into good humoured banter even with the fortunes fluctuating. I cannot remember seeing even one bad natured flare up amongst the spectators even when the action became aggressive on the field. Cricket was certainly the winner this year, long may it continue to flourish.

I always enjoy reading my old mate and fellow contributor Ted Corbett's despatches even if he does get a little carried away when England does well. Not that I can blame dear old Ted, for it has been a long time since offering toasts to English cricket's success. He did appear to get a little swept away in the September 10 issue of this magazine when he was writing off Australia for the next few years.

I really did enjoy when he wrote: "Just think how much more easily they might be overtaking Australia if Kevin Pietersen and Geraint Jones had accepted any of the 14 missed chances that have gone their way".

Can't believe my old friend would dabble in the "What if syndrome," but what if Pietersen had been caught by Shane Warne when he first came in to bat in the second innings at the Oval. But isn't this the great charm of cricket. Australians will regret the lost opportunity while the Poms will have forgotten it ever happened after Pietersen's fabulous innings.