England have beaten the Aussies in Australia for the first time since 1987. Hoorah! Now the excitement has dropped down (with a thud in the ODIs) we can analyse and go through the victory, and while doing this, there are lessons that we can all learn from and improve our own game.
This English team was the best prepared for touring in Australia in years. The bowlers started using the kookaburra ball while still in England mid-summer, the bowlers were sent to Brisbane instead of playing a warm-up game and this is possibly the fittest English team ever. Obviously we cannot go to these lengths, we are not hugely talented and have full-time jobs.
What we can do, however, is put in the odd extra fitness session preseason, if you're really keen make yourself a little exercise program. You will notice the difference, when you can run those tight singles or with that extra yard of pace.
We play cricket because we enjoy it—fact. When we get to a good level then we play for the competitive edge. In village cricket, dedication is turning up week in week out; in premier league cricket, this is not enough. Dedication turns into training hard during the week and here is the secret, getting to the ground early on match day.
An hour before the match is not too much effort, it enables you at lower levels to have a few throws and a couple of practice bowls. At the premier league level a proper warm-up, throw downs, some target bowling and some fielding.
The crucial part, however, is the mental aspect. Simply being at the ground early and not in a rush relaxes you. How many times has an opening batsman turned up late, rushes out to the middle and properly returns to the pavilion within minutes?
Imagery is crucial. Take in the scene, have a look at the ground. Is there a slope? How are the sight screens? If you can go as far as positive thinking, that's my end for wickets, my cover drive will pepper that boundary, then you are onto a winner.
We play as a team. Teamwork is crucial. There is no more inspirational sight then a diving stop, particularly from an immobile fielder who weighs over 20 stone! Or alternatively a sprint round the boundary and full length dive—take your pick which is better!
Either way the result is the same, body on the line for your team. Commitment to the course. Do it for your mates. These three themes enabled England to retain the ashes, and will make a huge difference to you, no matter what your level of cricket.