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So, England have gradually washed Australia away and retained the Ashes. I sit watching the dying of the Fourth Test at Durham, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, but soon.

It has been an unspectacular series, though enthralling, and one that has reminded me of nothing more than the British seaside.

Australia may have turned up to England in disarray, but by the time they’d bought their buckets and spades ready for the second test, they knew what to do with them.

In turn, Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke (particularly) have built beautiful sandcastles that stood, as they do, imperious in the daylight, only for the tide of English bowling to wear them away, bit by bit, until they crumbled into the sea.

It was, as the coming of the tides, inevitable. While the Australians might have blocked, shaped and nurdled, grittily – so grittily you could pick bits of them out of your teeth on the way home – they were as King Canute to England’s bowling; rarely looked like defeating the on-rushing water, but only tumbling into the wash at the death.

The tide is a good measure of England’s bowling, too. They have been unspectacular, but persistent, sticking to what they do. Nothing fancy, just knowing that sooner or later they would soak through the walls and bring the castles down.

Ian Bell, on the other hand, has erected Brighton Pier, Blackpool Tower and Cardigan Bay and been able to wave at his team mates from considerable comfort.

In the end, England have retained the Ashes. The blue flags are flying high over Britannia’s beaches while the sun still shines on them. What we have learned, and it will make for an exciting winter, is that Australia can dig, and we will have a very interesting series to come.

I suspect the tide may change a little and it may require Ian Bell to build Sydney Opera House over the winter months. The way he’s been playing, I’d back him.

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