By NEIL FRANKLAND
2013-12-18 11:01 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Australia's Ashes-winning captain Michael Clarke says his team must prove itself away from home if it is to regain the No. 1 test ranking it last held in 2009.
Australia reclaimed the Ashes in emphatic fashion Wednesday with a third straight test victory on home soil, and can leapfrog England into third place behind South Africa and India in the test rankings if it completes a 5-0 series sweep.
Australia is currently ranked No. 5 behind Pakistan.
"We've turned it around and we're heading back in the right direction," Clarke said. "To be the No. 1 team in the world, you have to be consistent home and away.
"A lot of the top teams are performing at home but are not having as much success as they'd like away from home. So that's a big goal for us; to continue to play fantastic cricket away. After this series we've got a tough series in South Africa. But we've got two very important test matches first in Melbourne and Sydney."
Australia's next challenge comes Dec. 26 in front of an expected first-day crowd of more than 90,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with selectors retaining the same winning squad from the first three tests.
Three members of that squad will gain some extra practice heading into the Melbourne test after Cricket Australia released opener David Warner, third-test man-of-the-match Steven Smith and George Bailey to play in this week's opening round of the domestic Twenty20 Big Bash League.
CA said the early securing of the Ashes allowed the batsmen to return to the domestic game.
"The bowlers from the first three tests were not considered for release given their recent workload and the need to prepare for the Melbourne and Sydney tests," CA high performance manager Pat Howard said.
Mitchell Johnson, the best of Australia's Ashes pacemen, has taken 23 wickets over the first three tests, resurrecting an international career that was in jeopardy when he was left out of the tour of England earlier this year.
"Mitch has known his role from the start of the series, in this team at the moment with the other bowlers around him," Clarke said. "Again, credit to the other guys. They've played a big part to allow Mitch to bowl the way he's bowled."
While Clarke is feeling the elation of ending England's three-series Ashes domination and a barren stretch of nine tests without a win, England skipper Alastair Cook said the loss of the urn was his lowest point as a player.
"It hurts like hell when you come into a contest and end up being second best," he said. "As a sportsman, to admit that is quite hard."
Cook will have now had to contend with calls for his demotion before his team attempts to salvage some pride at Melbourne.
"People haven't performed as well as they could have done," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is we haven't had enough players in form with either bat or ball."