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England loss fails to halt Ashes celebrations

By David Clough

England refused to let the small matter of a crushing innings defeat in the final Investec Test get in the way of celebrating their 3-2 Ashes success.

Alastair Cook conceded, after his team lost their last four wickets on day four at The Oval to go down by an innings and 46 runs, to a little disappointment but none that would stop the champagne corks popping in the England dressing room and long into the night.

They will rightly mark the achievement of a fourth successive home series victory over Australia, and a sell-out crowd cast aside the transient anti-climax too to lap up the occasion.

England's 2015 Ashes superiority was built on the batting of Compton-Miller medallist Joe Root and the fine pace bowling of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes in back-to-back three-day victories at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

It was the day after the second of those that captain Cook rang round his entire team, not just to congratulate them again but to warn the job was not quite done.

That was how it stayed despite his rallying call, England returning to London - they lost the second Test at Lord's - with hopes of a fourth win over Australia in a home summer for the first time, only to instead bowl poorly and then bat worse.

They responded to 481 all out with only 149 of their own and then, following on, Cook's attempted rearguard came to little as they mustered 286 and Peter Siddle, conspicuously absent through the first four Tests despite favourable conditions, finished with match figures of six for 67.

Cook was rueful, but adamant too, that England have proper reason for cheer at overcoming odds which were resoundingly against them at the start of the summer.

"We had a Test match to try and win, but maybe we underestimated the emotional highs from Trent Bridge and how hard it would be to get back up to that level you really need to beat Australia," he said.

"Of course, we'd love to be sitting here at 4-1 rather than 3-2.

"But credit to Australia, they showed how good a team they are and the character they've got.

"It's a little bit disappointing, but I'm not going to worry about it too much tonight."

Meanwhile, batsman Ian Bell is keen to prolong his career but hinted at retirement after saying he will "take stock" of his future in the next few weeks.

Bell - one of only three Englishmen, after Sir Ian Botham and Wilfred Rhodes, to feature in five Ashes-winning campaigns - was hit-and-miss in England's latest series victory over Australia.

The 33-year-old said: "Hopefully, I've got a lot of cricket ahead of me. I'll take stock over the next few weeks."

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