Australia feted for Ashes triumph at Sydney Opera House

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australia’s triumphant cricket team were feted by thousands of fans and the country’s Prime Minister at Sydney Opera House yesterday after winning back the Ashes with a thumping 5-0 series sweep over England at the weekend. England’s cricketers were derided in Australia after parading through London in a open-top bus after winning the urn in 2005 and this was a far more sober affair.

“The Ashes are the world’s oldest continuous sporting contest,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a speech. “They are proof that the greatest of friendships can co-exist with the fiercest of competitions.

“And I just want to say to all of our players, thank you for making every one of us so proud this summer and thank you for showing the grit and the character which you displayed this summer.”

Abbott perhaps underestimated the edge that existed between the two teams, particularly in the opening test in Brisbane after which Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined for saying an England player was about to have his arm broken. Clarke, who holds the post considered second in importance only to Abbott’s in Australia, was back at his statesmanlike best yesterday, though.

“Extremely proud I guess is probably the way I feel at the moment,” he said after thanking the fans for their support throughout the series.

“The work the guys have put in over a long period of time we finally got the rewards so its obviously extremely satisfying. It shows hard work does pay off.”

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