Team England is beginning to gel
England sealed their first whitewash since 1978 with a team performance of great confidence and maturity. Wisden Cricinfo runs the rule over the men that made it all possible:
Marcus Trescothick - 8
Justified his retention at the top of the order with his most commanding series to date. Trescothick has never been one to rely on in a backs-to-the-wall situation, but he now appears to be revelling in England's new positive approach. His 132 at Headingley and his 63 at Trent Bridge were particularly fluent and forceful, while his stand-in captaincy at Lord's was assured.
Andrew Strauss - 8
Produced a debut of such seismic proportions that one England captain was sent scurrying into retirement, while another made way to accommodate him at the top of the order. Living up to his Lord's standards was never going to be easy, but Strauss demonstrated he was no one-match wonder with a vital half-century at Headingley. The most assured England debutant since ... well, Trescothick himself.
Mark Butcher - 5
Another of those iffy returns to which Butcher is so prone. He redeemed his series with an important second-innings contribution at Trent Bridge, but his returns up to that point had been below-par, and his slip fielding was not all that it might have been either. Cannot afford to coast in England's current hothouse environment.
Nasser Hussain - 9
His retirement showed that he knew his mind, and that of his team, better than anyone had given him credit for. His departure signalled a subtle but undeniable shifting of the gears from England, whose middle order has routinely rollicked along at four an over ever since. He will miss it all, but at least there is the memory of that Lord's swansong to sustain him up in the commentary box.
Michael Vaughan - 7
A series of upheaval for Vaughan. Missed the first match with a knee injury, fled the second to attend the birth of his daughter, all the while attempting to reacquaint himself with the middle order. But it was a series of net gains all the same. Until he was hoodwinked by Cairns' slower ball, his 61 at Trent Bridge was developing into a classic, but it was his captaincy that really caught the eye. Utterly ruthless, he seized any given initiative with some of the most cut-throat and inventive field placings ever seen from an England leader.
Graham Thorpe - 9
The last of the lost generation, Thorpe remains the one batsman from the 1990s that England simply cannot do without. A man for all situations, he shepherded Hussain to his hundred at Lord's and took some crucial blows at Headingley when the pitch was at its most spiteful. But it was the super-cool manner with which he sealed the whitewash at Trent Bridge that showed him in the best light of all. Whether second fiddle or lead soloist, Thorpe has become a team man through and through.
Andrew Flintoff - 8
Statistics rarely tell the whole story, but in Flintoff's case they provide a window into his phenomenal progress this year. In 22 matches under Hussain and Alec Stewart, Flintoff averaged 20.08 with the bat, and 50.57 with the ball; in the 14 matches since Vaughan took over at Lord's last summer, those figures have leapt to 44.85 and 32.20 respectively. He has added an extra degree of maturity to his batting, while his bowling - particularly to left-handers - is becoming an ever more viable source of wickets, in addition to the degree of control he has always provided.
Geraint Jones - 8
If Flintoff is England's heartbeat, then Geraint Jones could well be the pacemaker he has been lacking for so long. Their sixth-wicket alliances at Lord's and, especially, Headingley, were vital factors in England's new attacking approach. Jones's glovework was ragged at first, but tightened up noticeably as his confidence grew. Cuts with breathtaking assurance and is strong off his legs as well. He epitomises England's new approach with his ability to spot an advantage and run with it.
Ashley Giles - 7
Much derided in recent times, but England could not have completed the whitewash without his sterling performances with bat and ball at Trent Bridge. As his confidence returned, so too did his flight and loop, and his dismissal of Cairns was arguably Giles's best delivery since he bowled Inzamam-ul-Haq out of the rough at Karachi in 2000-01. He provides vital ballast as England's most dependable option at No. 8, and will remain a fixture for a while to come yet.
Matthew Hoggard - 6
A patchy performance. Desperately low on confidence at times, although when his tail is up - as he demonstrated on that heady fourth evening at Headingley - he is a match for any batsman. With the likes of Sajid Mahmood and James Anderson pushing for places, Hoggy needs to shelve his insecurities and rediscover that devastating outswinger.
Simon Jones - 7
Bowled one of the finest, and least rewarded, spells of the summer at Lord's, where he made the old ball talk and justified Duncan Fletcher's assertion that he has mastered the art of reverse swing. An untimely foot injury curtailed his series, but given how far he has come in such a short time, the break is probably no bad thing in the long run.
Steve Harmison - 9
Utterly irreplaceable. Harmison was the difference between the sides - not only between England and New Zealand, but between England the fearless jugular seekers, and the timid limpets who tried and failed to cling onto a draw in Sri Lanka before Christmas. He provides a cutting edge that is the envy of every Test-playing country (even, whisper it softly, the Australians). With the one-dayers fast approaching, now is the right time to develop a slight groin niggle, and take a well-earned rest in preparation for Round Two against West Indies.
Martin Saggers - 6
An improbable selection, Saggers started gloriously with a first-ball wicket, and did enough at Headingley to justify his retention for the third Test. He may struggle to hold onto his place for much longer, however. He was unable to compensate for his lack of pace with consistent accuracy, and offers little with the bat either, so he is unlikely to keep Anderson on the sidelines forever.