Chester-Le-Street:Andrew Strauss, the England captain, believes the "hunger" his new-look side have shown in two crushing Test victories over the West Indies augurs well for this year's Ashes.
England humbled their visitors from the Caribbean by an innings and 83 runs here at the Riverside on Monday. That win followed a 10-wicket success at Lord's and meant they'd won both Tests in this two-match series by large margins.
At the Riverside, James Anderson - once a fringe player - led the way with a match return of nine wickets for 125 runs while opener Alastair Cook weighed in with a Test-best 160 in England's 569 for six declared.
Ravi Bopara, making an impressive bid to fill England's problem position of No 3, scored hundreds at both Lord's and the Riverside - displays which won him the man-of-the-series award.
Meanwhile pace bowlers Stuart Broad and newcomer Graham Onions, as well as off-spinner Graeme Swann, gave England cause for optimism.
When the Ashes last took place in England four years ago, England won 2-1.
But the return series in Australia, in 2006/07, saw them thrashed 5-0.
Strauss, who played in both those campaigns, refused but was pleased with what his side had done so far this season.
"If you look at the way the guys are practising at the moment, there's a real hunger to improve - and we need to cultivate that and make sure it grows and grows," the opening batsman said.
However, Strauss, looking ahead to the first Ashes Test in July in Cardiff, added: "The reality is that when we step out in Cardiff this means nothing really. The only thing is from a team's point of view is that it's nice to remember what it's like to win.
"But once we start that Ashes series it's back to square one and we need to earn the right to win Test matches.
"I think this has got relevance but what I'm saying is that we can't just rely on the fact we've beaten the West Indies twice to carry us through. We need to realise that the Ashes series is going to be a very stern test for us.
"Understandably, everyone wants to talk about the Ashes now but there's still a lot of cricket to be played," added Strauss of a season which features three one-dayers against the West Indies - starting at Headingley on Thursday - and the World Twenty20 before the Australia Tests get underway.
Strauss was thrust into the England captaincy in January when star batsman Kevin Pietersen was stripped of the role following a row with Peter Moores that cost the then England coach his job.
Andy Flower, formerly Moores's assistant, was put in temporary charge in the Caribbean but this was his first series since being confirmed in the post on a permanent basis. "Things settled down pretty quickly after the upheaval -which is very encouraging, because it means the players themselves are committed to playing for England," Strauss recalled.
Strauss was particularly pleased by the "clinical" way England saw off the West Indies. "We got on top in both Tests - and once we got on top, we stayed on top. By and large, we took our chances; we kept the pressure on and got what we deserved.
"I'm pretty delighted with how things are going at the moment."
He was also encouraged by the progress of both the 22-year-old Broad, described by Anderson as having a "30-year-old's head on his shoulders", and the Lancashire quick.
"In the West Indies they both bowled exceptionally well and didn't get what they deserved - because the wickets were very flat," Strauss said.
"Jimmy's control with the swinging ball is exceptional, and he's going to be a threat against anyone when it's swinging. At the same time, when it's flat we've learned a lot from what happened in the West Indies - and we've got a plan B there as well."