Why England must maintain focus in The Ashes

Despite retaining the Ashes by drawing the third Test match, Sports Mole looks at why England must maintain their focus for the rest of the series.

After ensuring that they retained the Ashes on Monday, there was a sense that some felt like it was job done and the final two matches wouldn't be played with the same intensity.

But now that the dust has settled, England's hunger to dominate their great rivals must rise to the top once more, because there is more to consider than simply ensuring that Australia don't win both of the remaining Test matches.

The majority of English cricket fans have anticipated - or should that be expected - that their heroes to completely dismantle a weak Australia lineup and sweep to a whitewash win.

Now that can't occur, and with the general consensus being that England were extremely fortunate not to lose the third Test, now is the time for Alastair Cook's side to re-establish themselves as the dominant XI in The Ashes.

After such high hopes - or should that be expectations - of Cook and co putting Clarke's men to the sword, only Australia would benefit if they can avoid defeat over the final 10 days of the series.

England captain Alastair Cook celebrates with fans after retaining the Ashes on August 5, 2013© Getty Images

England will still win The Ashes if they can avoid losing in Durham or at The Oval, but what do they gain with a 2-0, 2-1, or 3-1 success?

Sure, they would have defended their points in the World Test Rankings, but where is the satisfaction unless England win 4-0?

Anything less than that scoreline and they have not performed to our capabilities against the Baggy Greens, and if history is anything to go by, Australia will smell that weakness and take advantage of it.

We have already witnessed during the third Test that given a bit of encouragement, they still have that desire and passion to succeed, even after being dominated during the first two matches.

Despite all the criticism that they have taken this summer, Australia wear the Aussie colours with pride, and once that confidence begins to come back, they will become a completely different opposition.

England's Kevin Pietersen walks off after being given out off the bowling of Australia's Peter Siddle© Getty Images

England ended the Old Trafford Test on the back foot, so it's imperative that they begin at Durham on the front one. If Australia hold the advantage after day one, they have the potential to become a formidable side as the match develops.

Aside from this series, the England players should be looking to make a statement ahead of the next Ashes campaign, which begins at the end of the year.

Travelling to Australia used to be a daunting experience for an England side, but they proved last time around that they have the mentality to win on away soil.

These two Tests will dictate the feeling around the home nation once the travelling squad arrive in Australia, and that can have a huge bearing on how the series can transpire.

If England arrive on the back of a 4-0 victory, Australia's supporters will be pessimistic before a ball has been bowled, but if they can return home with a Test victory under their belt or remain undefeated in three, the atmosphere will be buzzing with optimism ahead of the opening Test in Brisbane.

The main message that Cook and Andy Flower should be passing on to the rest of the squad is that the job is not done. In fact, with 10 days of Test cricket left and a limited-overs series to follow, it could be argued that is has barely even started.

Graham Onions
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