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The Tonk: 'Phenomenal Australia'

Former Test batsman Michael Hussey analyses Australia's turnaround in Ashes fortunes, the Big Bash League and Michael Clarke.

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The urn has returned, but is this the start of another period of dominance for Australia over the old enemy, or will we be handing it back to England when Australia tours in 2015?

Was Tuesday's triumph a sign that Australian cricket is peaking, or was it the peak of what this team can accomplish?

WHAT'S NEXT?

Clockwise from left: Tasmanian Tiger Jordan Silk; Alex Doolan; Sydney Sixer Josh Hazlewood; Steven Smith; Queensland Bull Usman Khawaja; Redback Phil Hughes.

Clockwise from left: Tasmanian Tiger Jordan Silk; Alex Doolan; Sydney Sixer Josh Hazlewood; Steven Smith; Queensland Bull Usman Khawaja; Redback Phil Hughes. Photo: Getty Images, AFP

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting has expressed frustrations that Australian cricket has sometimes got too comfortable when times were good, and already there are warnings for this team not to fall into a similar trap. But is Australia one of the world's best teams, or a team that knocked over the English at a time when the tourists lacked motivation and were hopelessly out of sorts in the fast, bouncy conditions?

In two months, Australia will travel to South Africa for a three-Test series against the No. 1-ranked team in the world. From there, Australia takes on Pakistan away from home – a team that ranked ahead of it before the Ashes – and then hosts India, which is ranked No. 2 next summer. Then it's two Tests against the West Indies in the Caribbean before the return Ashes bout in England in July 2015.

So how does the selection hierarchy approach South Africa? Is upstaging the world's best Test team just as crucial as winning the Ashes? Does the team get picked for the immediate challenge, or selected with an eye to England in 2015? Just as this Ashes win was vital to ensure that England did not retain the urn for a record fourth consecutive occasion, beating it at home for the first time since 2001 is a goal captain Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann would be just as desperate to achieve.

Who is going to be around for the next Ashes? It wasn't long after the champagne started to flow on Tuesday that former coach Mickey Arthur issued the sobering reality that “this is an old team now”, pointing out that seven of the Test team are 31 or older. Arthur listed a raft of “holes” in the Australian team that he tried to plug and insisted “are still going to be there” in the next year or so.

“Chris Rogers is 36, so who is that next opening batsman?" Arthur asked. "Is George Bailey good enough? Where does Shane Watson bat? "Who is the next keeper? Brad Haddin is 36. Is it Matthew Wade.

"Ryan Harris has probably only got one season maximum left in him. Peter Siddle is now getting to the wrong side of 30. Mitchell Johnson is 32."

Already battling to keep his spot in the Ashes series based on form, Rogers would need a massive turnaround in fortunes to be in the touring party to England in 2015 as an almost 38-year-old. Bailey would be almost 33, and whether he is good enough could be answered as soon as the South African tour.

Watson would be 34 and still seems to be at his best when he can afford to play aggressively – perhaps at the more traditional No. 6 spot for an all-rounder. Clarke shows no signs of slowing down and at 32 (34 come the next Ashes) is the best batsman in the world, while David Warner (27) has the world at his feet.

At 24, there is no reason to think Steve Smith won't be in the middle order and maybe even vice-captain. As far as the keeper goes, Haddin played his grand final in this series, and does not expect to be around for the next one.

As good as he is now, can we expect Harris to be doing what he did this summer when he is a couple of months off 36 in England? Same goes for Johnson. No one would suggest the lethal left-arm quick will not make it to England at close to 34, but will he still be bowling 150km/h? Siddle will be 30 come the next Ashes and yet does everything right with his fitness and body and does not rely on pace to be effective.

Then there's spinner Nathan Lyon. At 26, he will be aiming to settle in as the country's top spinner and his 10 wickets in this series so far – and ability to look dangerous even without taking them – has been encouraging.

WHO COULD STEP UP?

If we marvelled at how much things could change in the 88 days between this Ashes series and the one before, then how different could our team look in two years?

Phil Hughes is a name that never seems to go away, and at 25 has notched the equal-most Sheffield Shield centuries this season – three – at an average of 61. He already has two Test centuries as an opener in South Africa and seems to be the next in line for the spot occupied by Rogers.

Tasmanian Alex Doolan, 28, is another being touted as a potential No. 3 and his teammate Jordan Silk, at 21, could bob up when succession planning begins.

The cover for injury-prone Watson is still being provided by promising duo James Faulkner and Moises Henriques, while Wade – who has scored two Test centuries – still appears the logical replacement for Haddin in the short term.

The next 12 months loom massively for Lyon, coming up against some of the world's best batsmen in South Africa and two teams in India and Pakistan that play spin as well as anyone.

Should question marks again circle Lyon, Fawad Ahmed and Ashton Agar will be waiting, with Agar even considered a possible Test all-rounder in the future.

Fortunately, it seems the fast bowling stocks are the least of Australia's worries, with James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all under 23, although keeping Pattinson and Cummins fit is the key.

THE ENEMY

It's not like England doesn't have its own worries. Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott were considered two of its major weapons along with Ian Bell and Alastair Cook going into this series. Now, there are serious questions as to whether Pietersen and Trott will be around for the next English summer, let alone the next Ashes. Ditto Matt Prior.

Pietersen will be 35 when the Ashes are contested again. Trott – who went home after the first Test because of illness – would be 34, and Prior 33. But in different conditions and possibly no Johnson thunderbolts coming at them, are they different players next time? Bell (31) is all class and you would back him and Cook (28) to play better at home.

If Australia has two players of the future in Warner and Smith, then certainly England could claim similar for Ben Stokes and Joe Root. The core of the pace attack of James Anderson (31), Stuart Broad (27), Tim Bresnan (28) and Chris Tremlett (32) is potentially young enough, but is it good enough? The bowlers have lacked an edge in this series, albeit let down by poor fielding at times. Of course, they would be better suited to English conditions.

Spinner Graeme Swann is the interesting one. He will be 36 in July 2015. Against a middle order with no left-handers, he has been bullied on this tour, but it is easy to forget what he has done to Australia in England. The next two Tests could be telling for him.