Gareth Southgate has welcomed Raheem Sterling becoming a star player for England and hailed the forward's increasing influence on and off the pitch.

Sterling initially struggled to turn his club form for Manchester City into high-level performances for the Three Lions, regularly facing strong criticism over his performances.

He branded himself "The Hated One" in a post on social media while enduring a difficult time during England's unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign.

Since then, however, Sterling has grown to play a key role for England with a stunning run of eight goals in his past eight appearances demonstrating his importance for Southgate's side.

Sterling equalised in Tuesday's 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo and created a further three goals, including providing assists for both of Jadon Sancho's maiden international goals.

The attacker has also become a social figurehead, drawing praise for speaking out over racism and going viral for his interactions with supporters, with manager Southgate delighted to have a front-row seat to Sterling's continued rise to superstardom.

"For me, it's lovely to see the shift in the public opinion of him," Southgate said of the 24-year-old.

"That's still a brave thing to decide that: 'Right, I'm going to own that space and I'm going to put my own views across'. But those views represent many as well, so I think he's aware of the power of his voice, but he also doesn't waste it.

"I think he was very forthright in his social media posts [about racism]. I think he raised everybody's awareness and made us all think, which was very mature and impressive. And, at the same time, he rose to the challenge with his club, with new signings coming in.

"You know, when you are at a club like that, to keep fighting off the quality of players that he has; and straight away with us, got the goals in Spain - first game after the World Cup for him, really. Croatia away, Spain. I think it was such a huge weight lifted for him, he almost jumped six foot in the stadium, didn't he? 

"So I think from that moment - because he did come home a bit sad after the World Cup, there's no hiding from that. He didn't deserve to feel that way, but that's as he was, so it's lovely to see the recognition he's getting and how much extra I think that's bringing out of him.

"If there are things that he thinks can be better with the mentality of the players or the way that we've set the week out, he'll thoughtfully put ideas across; he doesn't just sit and complain.

"But then you see his interaction with the players. I noticed, over the last 24 hours especially [prior to facing Kosovo], he spent a lot of time with Jadon, I think that was probably quite a comfort.

"He can pass things on that I can speak [about] as the coach, but there'll be more depth to that if your fellow winger who has been at the same club as you, and has been through what you’re going to go through can talk to you. I think that's far more powerful. You can't quantify what that will have meant for Jadon."

Asked how Sterling will have felt to have been made a scapegoat earlier in his international career, Southgate said: "Difficult for me to say. I can only imagine. Everyone wants to be liked, don't they?

"Everybody, players give their all. He's a player that has always given his all… You know how much it means to him, how much he wants to do well.

"So, I think it's for him to reflect on how he might have felt then and, for me, it's just lovely to see a young man establishing himself, at the real top table in the game."

Southgate indicated he also sees an England future for Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, who qualifies to play for Nigeria in addition to the Three Lions.

"Tammy is a young player that we’ve always liked, we know he'll score goals," he said. "We felt it was a bit early this time to call him up, but we really can see that he can offer us something moving forward.

"We gave him a cap back in November of 2017. For sure, we need to make certain that he feels that the opportunity is going to be there. I'm pretty sure he does, he knows us well enough."

Australia will attempt to rub salt in England's wounds by securing a first Ashes series away win since 2001 at The Oval.

The tourists retained the urn with an 185-run victory at Old Trafford last Sunday, which gave them a 2-1 lead with just one match to play.

You have to go back 18 years for Australia's last series triumph in England, but that wait will end if they avoid defeat in London.

We pick out a selection of Opta numbers ahead of the final Test of the series, which starts on Thursday.

 

- Australia come into this game at The Oval having retained the Ashes for the first time since the 2002-03 series.

- The tourists are looking first for a first away Test series success since February 2016.

- England will be striving to avoid their first Test series defeat on home soil since June 2014; that series loss coming against Sri Lanka (0-1).

- England have not suffered back-to-back home Test losses since South Africa won two in a row 11 years ago. They have only managed one victory in their last 10 Test contests with Australia.

- Australia have only claimed three wins in their last 18 attempts in Tests at The Oval, losing six and drawing nine.Their win at the London ground was in 2015.

- England have registered back-to-back Test victories at The Oval. They have not managed to record three on the bounce there since putting together a four-game winning run from 1966 to 1969.

- Stuart Broad has got David Warner out 11 times in Test cricket, the joint-most instances he's removed a batsman (level with Michael Clarke). He has dismissed Warner in six of his eight knocks in this series, at the price of only 32 runs.

Mitchell Marsh has been preferred to vice-captain Travis Head in the only change to Australia's squad for the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

All-rounder Marsh will make his first appearance of the series against England as the tourists strive to win the series after going 2-1 up to retain the urn at Old Trafford last weekend.

Batsman Head has made just one half-century in the series and captain Tim Paine says Marsh was selected to ease the bowlers' workload.

"Looking at the conditions and the series being a long and tough one, we've kept the bowling group that was together for the last Test match.

"They've bowled a lot of overs and we feel that bringing Mitchell in will ease a little bit of the workload on them.

"It was a really tough call on Travis Head, who's had a great start to his Test career but we wanted a bit more bowling depth in the squad to cover what looks like a really good wicket and to be able to look after our big, fast bowlers.

"Mitchell Marsh has also had a couple of hundreds in Test cricket so we've got full faith in him doing the job with the bat as well."

Paine added: "The reason Travis isn't playing is because we felt like we needed a little bit of extra bowling at the end of a long series.

"Mitch Marsh is our all-rounder and like we have with our bowlers, it's not necessarily Travis being dropped.

"We've been really clear with Travis on why he's not playing this game. He's had a fantastic start [to his Test career], he's played nine or 10 Tests and has got a very healthy average but we want to get the make up right to win this Test match.

"Unfortunately we had to make a really tough call on someone and it happened to be Travis. He's a huge part of Australian cricket future, he's a gun young player and he's getting better all the time.

"It's disappointing for him he's not playing in this Test match. He'd dearly love to, obviously, but we'll go back to Australia, conditions will be different. There's no doubt he's in the top six or seven batsmen in our country."

England replaced Jason Roy and Craig Overton with Sam Curran and Chris Woakes for the fifth Test, which starts on Thursday.


Australia squad for fifth Ashes Test: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (captain), Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

Joe Root insists Jason Roy has not reached the end of the road in his Test career after the batsman was dropped by England for the final Ashes match against Australia.

Roy came into England's squad for the Ashes on the back of an impressive World Cup, but the 29-year-old - who opened the batting for the first three Tests before dropping to number four at Old Trafford - has failed to recapture the form he has shown in one-day cricket.

With all-rounder Ben Stokes having sustained a shoulder injury in the fourth Test, England have brought in Sam Curran as an extra bowler. That meant Roy, who accumulated just 110 runs from eight innings, misses out, while Chris Woakes has replaced Craig Overton.

Root, however, has no doubt Roy will work on improving his game in order to force his way back into consideration ahead of England's tour of New Zealand in November.

"It's always tough to leave guys out, but Stokesy suffered a shoulder injury in the last game and won't be able to bowl the overs you'd normally expect him to, and with that we've had to change the balance of the side," Root told a news conference.

"Jason's the unfortunate one to miss out. He's had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it.

"It's not quite gone how he would have liked but I’m sure he’ll go away, work extremely hard and come again and that’s what you'd expect of guys when they get left out.

"I'm sure he'll have that attitude, want to prove a point and get himself back into the side."

"Yes," Root said, when asked if he had spoken to Roy, who made his Test debut against Ireland in July.

"When you leave someone out you obviously have those conversations, and he’s very aware of where he's at and what he needs to do to get himself to the best place to perform in Test cricket."

Outgoing England coach Trevor Bayliss said on Tuesday that, despite media speculation, there was "no pressure" on Root's position as captain despite the team's failure to regain the Ashes.

And the Yorkshire batsman is adamant his side have plenty to play for heading into the final Test at The Oval.

"[It was] bitterly disappointing to not have got the Ashes back, but we haven't lost anything yet, we've got to make sure we square the series up and there's Test Championship points to play for as well which could make a huge difference," Root said.

"There's plenty to play for, the guys are very aware of that and determined to make sure we make the series 2-2.

"In terms of my own captaincy, I know the direction I want to take this team in and it's about starting that now, not after this series. We need to use this as a stepping stone, win this game, have a really strong winter and move forward as a group."

Jason Roy has been dropped from England's side for the final Ashes Test at The Oval after his poor form throughout the series, with Ben Stokes passed fit to bat.

Roy has failed to establish himself, either as an opener alongside Rory Burns or when switched to number four for the Old Trafford Test.

The 29-year-old's highest score came in Manchester, when he made 31 as England desperately attempted to keep the series alive, to no avail, and Roy has now made way for Sam Curran.

Craig Overton proved resilient with the bat in England's second innings at Old Trafford before he was eventually dismissed by Josh Hazlewood, but the Somerset bowler has been replaced by Chris Woakes.

Stokes will play as a specialist batsman, with the all-rounder unable to bowl due to a shoulder injury.

Australia captain Tim Paine confirmed one change to his 12-man squad, with Mitchell Marsh replacing Travis Head.

England team for fifth Ashes Test: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

Steve Borthwick has confirmed Joe Launchbury and Henry Slade will be fit to feature in England's opening Rugby World Cup match.

Launchbury sustained a knock in England's final warm-up fixture against Italy, while head coach Eddie Jones was without Slade for all of the preparation games as the centre recovered from a knee injury.

However, the duo will be able to take part in England's World Cup opener against Tonga on September 22, meaning Jones will have 29 of his 31-man squad available for selection.

Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell will still be missing, with both players expected to be out for at least the first two pool-stage matches.

"Mako and Jack Nowell will be back in the latter part of the group stages," forwards coach Borthwick told reporters following the squad's arrival in Japan.

"Slade is looking, very, very good. Joe Launchbury came off with a back injury at the weekend, but there's nothing concerning there.

"Joe will recover from the flight and will be good to go. While Mako and Jack are unavailable, Slade is on track."

England's travel plans were disrupted due to a typhoon, but Borthwick - who was an assistant to Jones during his stint as Japan head coach - says the squad are in fine spirits despite the delay.

"There was a bit of disruption, but people were very good around the airport. They gave us access to the lounge because they knew we'd been held up," Borthwick said.

"We stayed on the plane for a period of time and then went into the lounge.

"There was also a little delay outside at the airport so the boys started an impromptu game of cricket. It was good, but I didn't have an innings."

After facing Tonga, England - who crashed out of the 2015 World Cup at the first hurdle - will go up against the United States, Argentina and France in Pool C.

Tim Paine is not planning to bow out as Australia captain in the wake of his side retaining the Ashes.

Australia retained the urn thanks to their 185-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, handing the visitors an unassailable 2-1 lead.

There is still plenty to play for at The Oval, however, with England needing a victory to avoid a first Ashes series defeat on home soil in 18 years.

Paine's captaincy has come under scrutiny at times throughout the tour, particularly with former skipper Steve Smith - who was replaced by the wicketkeeper following the 2018 ball-tampering scandal - having been in such inspired form.

But having guided Australia through a difficult 18 months, Paine is in no mood to relinquish his leadership duties, even though an Ashes win would ensure his legacy would be firmly intact.

"Not for me, not at the moment," Paine, whose international career was halted by a mixture of injuries and rivals keeping him out of the team, told reporters at The Oval when asked if he might call time on his tenure at the end of the series.

"I'm loving doing what I'm doing, and I think while you've got a job that you love you try and do it for as long as you can.

"I did miss a lot, I suppose, in the prime years of my cricket career. The positive of that now is that physically I'm in really good condition for my age and feel really good after Test matches physically.

"Mentally, it's a different story but it only takes a day to recover from that. While I keep enjoying it, I'll keep doing it."

The 34-year-old was asked if the end of the ICC Test Championship cycle in the middle of 2021 would be an ideal signing-off point, but Paine insisted he is not planning so far ahead.

"I haven't thought about it to be honest," Paine said.

"I haven't thought much past this Test match, as I've said in the last 18 months, I think it's foolish at my age if you do.

"I'm enjoying what I'm doing and whilst I can continue to contribute in some way, I'll continue to do it.

"I constantly talk to Justin Langer and [selection chair] Trevor Hohns about what might happen or how long I might go on for, but I think we're all comfortable and we're all on the same page."

Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling has been close to "unstoppable" after his dazzling display in England's entertaining 5-3 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sterling scored and set up three others as England came from a goal down at St Mary's Stadium to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group A on Tuesday.

England conceded inside 34 seconds but Sterling restored parity before the Manchester City star teed up Harry Kane and providing the assists for Jadon Sancho's brace.

Sterling's performance came after he scored and supplied two assists for Kane in England's 4-0 rout of Bulgaria last week, and manager Southgate heaped praise on the in-form 24-year-old.

"Our attacking play from Raheem, Jadon and Harry was outstanding," Southgate said. "Raheem's two performances have been of the highest level. 

"I think he's been almost unstoppable, his awareness of where defenders were, his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal, and unselfish play as well, so I couldn't speak highly enough of the way he played."

It was a memorable outing for Sancho in Southampton, where the Borussia Dortmund sensation scored his first England goals.

"Jadon – you know we were talking about the three on Saturday – Jadon's performance was at that level as well. He worked really hard for the team without the ball and showed the ability he has to go past people, to be calm in tight areas," Southgate said.

"So, that part of our game was absolutely outstanding. We continued that threat for most of the game."

While England made it four wins from four games to be three points clear atop Group A, the Three Lions were far from convincing defensively against Kosovo.

Errors saw England concede three goals to the visiting minnows and Southgate added: "It was bizarre. The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody, so we don't need to get the video out and go back through it.

"Poor individual mistakes, a poor start to the game. I like the way we showed the composure to recover from that initial mistake and our use of the ball throughout the first half was excellent, right the way through the team.

"The small period after half-time: ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back. So, we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves. There were obviously mistakes that were concerning. Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know. We've got to reflect on that but they were such basic errors, really, that you have to learn from. We just made some crazy errors."

Gareth Southgate accepted England made poor defensive mistakes in Tuesday's thrilling 5-3 defeat of Kosovo and demanded his side improve.

Raheem Sterling shone with a goal and three assists as England came from behind in an entertaining clash in Southampton.

Jadon Sancho struck his first international goals, with Harry Kane also on target, although the usually impeccable Three Lions captain failed to convert a second-half penalty.

Kosovo, though, forced regular mistakes from the Nations League semi-finalists, including in the first minute when a Michael Keane lapse led to Valon Berisha's opener.

Berisha would later profit again after Declan Rice gave the ball away too easily, while a Harry Maguire challenge resulted in Vedat Muriqi scoring a spot-kick.

England ultimately had too much firepower thanks to Sterling and Sancho but Southgate was under no illusions about the work to do in defence.

"It had its moments! A bizarre game really," Southgate told ITV after England extended their 100 per cent record in Group A.

"There were obvious poor errors for goals but I'm really pleased with the composure we showed.

"We had devastating attacking play throughout and we used the ball well.

"The mistakes were obvious, the errors, we have to be better. The players don't need me to tell them that.

"The outstanding parts of our play were obvious, the errors were obvious."

England return to action next month with away trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Jadon Sancho dedicated his first England goals to his late grandmother after starring in a 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo.

England trailed in the first minute at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, but Raheem Sterling shone as they hit back to lead 5-1 at the break.

Sterling provided two assists for Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho in quick succession, the teenager becoming the youngest player to score more than once in a game for England since Wayne Rooney in 2004.

"It was a good run from Raheem, he found me and I slotted it home," Sancho, 19, told ITV.

"It means a lot to me personally and for my family it is a special day.

"I dedicate the goals to my nan, who was a big fan of me but has sadly passed away."

 

 

Gareth Southgate's side responded well after a Michael Keane error allowed Valon Berisha to score the first of his two goals with just 34 seconds on the clock.

"It was a crazy game. I'm delighted to score my first goal for England," said Sancho.

"The opener was a bad mistake from us but it was a great comeback."

After the restart England conceded twice more and Sancho acknowledged there are defensive improvements needed despite a fourth Group A win out of four games.

"I think we started a bit slow [after half-time]," he added. "Next time we have to pick up on that and learn from it."

Raheem Sterling scored and recorded a trio of assists while Jadon Sancho hit his first England goals as Gareth Southgate's side came from behind to beat Kosovo 5-3 in Southampton. 

Kosovo led after 34 seconds of the Euro 2020 qualifier at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, Valon Berisha giving the Three Lions a scare, but they roared back to lead 5-1 at half-time thanks to Sterling's inspirational display.

He levelled the scores with a header and set up Harry Kane to make it 2-1 before Mergim Vojvoda's own goal, Sterling then providing assists for Sancho's two strikes in an action-packed Group A clash.

England lost their focus after the interval with Berisha netting again and Vedat Muriqi converting a penalty - a feat Kane failed to match soon after - to make the final scoreline closer than Sterling's superb showing deserved.

Kosovo were gifted an early opener when Michael Keane's loose pass allowed Fidan Aliti to tee up Berisha for his second international goal since changing allegiance from Norway.

The hosts responded well and drew level in the eighth minute, Keane heading a right-wing Ross Barkley corner back across goal for a leaping Sterling to profit from close range.

Sterling then created England's second, brilliantly turning into space on halfway and feeding Kane for a powerful finish through the legs of Kosovo goalkeeper Arijanet Muric.

England opened up a four-goal advantage before the break. Vojvoda turned a low Sancho cross into his own net before the Borussia Dortmund winger opened his international account with a quickfire double.

Sloppy play allowed Kosovo to net first after the restart. Declan Rice lost the ball on halfway and Berisha curled home his second of the game, then Harry Maguire's clumsiness enabled Muriqi to reduce the deficit further from the spot.

England should have restored a three-goal cushion but captain Kane saw his penalty pushed away by Muric while the goalkeeper - on Manchester City's books - later deflected a Sterling shot on to the post.


What does it mean? England closing on qualification

Reaching the Euro 2020 finals always looked on the cards for England but they have made light work of their competition in Group A, scoring 19 goals already and winning all four of their games, although defensive weaknesses were exposed here. 

Kosovo are still occupying second spot in the group and have every chance of reaching their first international tournament given the impressive way they carried the fight against their lauded opponents.


Unplayable Sterling at top of his game

Kosovo's open tactics played into England's hands but Sterling made the most of the time and space he was routinely given in the opposition half. On current form, few players in the world are as dangerous as the City star, who it is easy to forget is only 24 years old.


Keane at risk of losing his place

Bernard Challandes' side pressed ferociously from the first whistle and it did not take them long to force an error from Everton defender Keane. With John Stones expected to be fit for England's next fixtures Keane will likely drop out of the team, partly due to his latest mistake.


What's next?

England have an away double-header against Czech Republic and Bulgaria next month, while October's international break sees Kosovo travel to Gibraltar and host Montenegro.

Justin Langer has no doubt David Warner will overcome the poor form that has dogged his batting during the Ashes. 

Warner has excelled in the field for Australia, but has failed to impress when at the crease, scoring just 79 runs from eight innings.

The tourists have nonetheless retained the urn, with Steve Smith having been pivotal in helping them secure a 2-1 series lead with one Test remaining. 

However, Langer has no concerns over whether Warner, who was impressive during Australia's Cricket World Cup campaign, can recapture the form which made him one of the most formidable openers in international cricket.

"He'll be fine," said Langer. "Steve Smith was throwing balls to him because [Smith's] usually hitting balls and he didn't want to hit any. 

"Davey hasn't had a great series, there's no secrets about that. But he's also a world class player. I've said throughout the whole series if Davey has one good innings it will help us win the Ashes. 

"He probably hasn't been through this lean run before, so it's going to be a good test of his character and we know what a great player he is. 

"He's had a huge World Cup, he had a huge IPL albeit with a white ball. He's a world class player, he's a match winner. He's been brilliant around the group since he's been back. 

"He's been great, he's been great for the crowds, he's been good amongst the group. He hasn't got the runs he wants at the moment, but I'm looking forward to seeing it when he does and there's no better place in the world to bat than The Oval [in the fifth Test], so I'm looking forward to seeing him go well this week."

Australia were able to celebrate at Old Trafford on Sunday, but Langer revealed focus swiftly switched to The Oval, with his side needing to avoid defeat to secure a first series triumph in England since 2001.

"Certainly that celebration was two out of 10 to some of the ones I've seen in Australian cricket before because we knew we had to play three days later," he said.

"The boys are up and about. There's certainly great energy in the group. I've said throughout this whole series there's been lots of laughter in the group, lots of great camaraderie. 

"So hopefully that continues and that certainly gets heightened when you have a successful game. There's a good feeling in the group, they know there's still unfinished business and we're looking forward to this last Test match."

James Anderson remains hungry to play for England after missing the Ashes - and has backed Joe Root to carry on as Test captain.

Seamer Anderson bowled just four overs on the first day of the opener against Australia due to a calf injury, though it was initially hoped he would still feature in the rest of the series.

However, while attempting to prove his fitness before the fourth Test at his home ground of Old Trafford, the 37-year-old suffered a setback on duty for Lancashire's second XI, ruling him out of contention.

Yet despite a disappointing 2019 so far, Anderson remains determined to get back to full fitness and turn out for his country again.

"At the minute, I'm just focusing on getting fit again. I've still got the hunger and desire to play for England," Anderson told Omnisport.

"As I've said before this year, up until I got injured, I've been bowling as well as I ever have, so I've still got the hunger there to get through this, do the rehab and get my body in good shape again and hopefully get onto a winter tour."

Without their all-time leading wicket-taker in the longest format, England have come up short in their bid to regain the Ashes on home soil.

Defeat in Manchester on Sunday means Australia - who won the previous series 4-0 - hold a 2-1 lead with just this week’s finale at the Oval to go.

Root's position as skipper has come into question in the aftermath of the fourth Test, though Anderson is adamant England do not need a captaincy change despite concerns extra responsibility has hampered the Yorkshireman's batting.

"I certainly think he's the right man for the job," Anderson said. "He's done some great work with the Test side over the last few years.

"From the team's point of view, we've shown glimpses of what we can do but been a little bit inconsistent. So it's about finding that consistency as a group.

"And I think he [Root] will be as disappointed as anyone with his form. It's a tricky one, whether if he had batted [at number] four it would make any difference.

"I don't think his captaincy is necessarily affecting his batting, he's just not scored the runs that he would have liked in the series."


James Anderson was speaking on behalf of ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers, Official Test Partner for England cricket ahead of the final Test of the Specsavers Ashes Series at The Oval. Specsavers are encouraging fans to take eye and ear tests this summer.

Joe Root's position as England captain is not under threat, according to outgoing coach Trevor Bayliss.

Root's captaincy has been questioned from outside the England camp during the Ashes series, with Australia retaining the Ashes with one Test to spare thanks to their 185-run win at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The 28-year-old was appointed Test skipper following Alastair Cook's resignation in 2017, but England have struggled to find their best form in the longest form of the game under the Yorkshireman's leadership.

Despite the fate of the Ashes being already decided, Bayliss – who oversaw England's rise to dominance in one-day cricket and will leave his post at the end of the series – insists Root is not under scrutiny.

"He hasn't come under any questions from anyone making any decisions so he is under no pressure at all," Bayliss told a news conference ahead of the final Test at The Oval.

"Everyone goes through periods where they might not score quite as many runs as they would like. I think the Australian team have bowled pretty well to him.

"Let's see how things go further down the line, but from my point of view he's our premier batter and knowing the Australian way, they always try and target the opposition captain.

"He's batted well on occasions through this series when he's got a start. I don't see too many problems really."

In spite of calls for a shake-up to the Test side, England have named an unchanged squad for the final match, and Bayliss believes the selection policy throughout the series has been correct.

"I've been quite happy with the selections," he said. "The first thing you've got to say is, 'Who else is going to come in?'. That's one point.

"After three Tests in this series, either team could have been up 3-0 I thought. We had our chances when they were 120-8 in the first Test, second Test we finished on top and the game was a draw and the third Test, Australia could have won that and the first two so, as I said, it could have been 3-0 either way.

"If you think about it that way, we can't have got the selections too wrong."

Captain Tim Paine will take "great confidence" from Australia retaining the Ashes on English soil, according to Justin Langer.

After they were denied by Ben Stokes' heroics at Headingley in the previous match, Australia made sure they will keep hold of the famous urn with a 185-run victory over England in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, the result giving them a 2-1 lead with just one match to play.

Paine's relief when the final wicket was confirmed following a review was clear, having come in for some criticism after his team's failure to get over the line in the third Test when the hosts recorded a dramatic one-wicket triumph.

Australia coach Langer has praised the way the skipper has led the team during the tour, particularly as they had not won a series overseas since a 2-0 triumph over trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in 2016.

"He's very disciplined - I like that. He is very tough as well," Langer said of the wicketkeeper-batsman. "This has meant a lot to him, from where he's come from.

"The other important thing about Tim as captain is that we have not won overseas for some time. You've got to learn how to win, and that's why this result is so important to us.

"I think the big lesson from the last Test is we all wanted it so much, sometimes we want something so much you just hold on a little bit tight. Hopefully we've learned some lessons over the last week.

"Had this [Old Trafford Test] been another draw, had we not quite got over the line, then that's tough on the team. And for his captaincy, he will take great confidence from this - and so will the team."

The tourists have relied heavily on Steve Smith to hold together a faltering batting line-up during the series, though Langer feels there are mitigating circumstances for some of the rest of the team, considering their lack of experience in the Test arena.

"Steve Smith has done a lot for Australian cricket in the last few years, really. So has David Warner," he said.

"We must remember that Travis Head is new to Test cricket. Marnus Labuschagne is new to Test cricket. Marcus Harris is new to Test cricket. Cameron Bancroft is new to Test cricket. You can't just give them that experience, they've got to earn that.

"We are very thankful to have Steve Smith batting like he is. We are lucky to have him, but Test cricket takes time. We have got to respect that.

"David hasn't had a great series, but imagine how good the team will be when he starts having a great series. Hopefully, he will do that in the next Test.

"The other guys are learning as they go and this is all part of the experience. I said at the start of the series that the team that bats best will win the series, because both teams have got good bowling attacks. Ours is world class and we're really lucky – we're going to have to work on that batting."

Smith has scored 671 runs in five innings against England, cementing his place at the top of the International Cricket Council Test batting rankings.

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