Australian cricketers draw thousands for triumphant victory celebration

Captain Michael Clarke thanks fans packed into the Opera House forecourt as focus turns to next test in South Africa

Thousands of cricket fans filled the Sydney Opera House forecourt on Tuesday to celebrate Australia's Ashes victory over England and hear from the winning team.

The crowd cheered as each player was introduced.

The prime minister spoke first. When greeted by a cry of ''Go back to Canberra, you drongo!'', Tony Abbott joked that his heckler might be a member of England's ''Barmy Army''.

"In Australia summer means cricket,'' he said. ''A good summer means Australia playing England.

''You made the improbable achievable,'' he told the team. ''Now we want you to become the invincibles by going on to beat South Africa,'' looking ahead to the team's next Test series.

The crowd erupted when Mitchell Johnson was asked if he would keep his luxuriant moustache. The cheers turned to boos, though, when he said, ''I'm actually going to shave it.''

But he quickly reassured the crowd: ''I'm going to grow it back again. I'll grow it for South Africa.''

There was some controversy over sledging on the pitch during the series, but Johnson said banter between sides was ''all part of the game''.

He acknowledged England's supporters had given him a hard time, but: ''It was nice to turn around and put the five fingers up.''

Captain Michael Clarke thanked the crowd, and said he was ''extremely proud'' of the team. "The support we've had throughout this series ... we really feel that as players," he said.

"Hopefully we put smiles on some faces."

The team was presented with a Waterford Crystal Ashes trophy to a backdrop of fireworks and a toot of support from a passing Manly ferry.

Coach Darren Lehmann, who has been widely praised for turning Australia's form around, said all credit went to the players. "They've done all the hard work," he said.

But now it was time to get back to work.

"I think the boys need a bit of training after the last few days," he said.

Asked about the series in South Africa, which will follow more battles with England in the one-day and Twenty20 forms of the game, Lehmann said: "First thing is to get through the one-dayers.

"Then [we will] move forward from here, obviously, against the number one Test-playing nation in their home backyard. So it's a great learning curve for us. We'll have to play well."

After the presentation, players signed autographs and took photos with fans. Clarke told reporters the team had been "celebrating well" and added: "It's great to see so many people out here today."

Organisers expected about 4,000 supporters to turn up. About five minutes before the players arrived the front half of the audience area was closed.

One person in the crowd, Michael Klaassen, had come to see the team because "it's a hell of an achievement winning five-nil in an Ashes series".

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to come out here really," he said.

He had brought a shirt to get signed for himself, a hat for a mate and a program he was hoping Clarke would sign for his mother-in-law.

Sonia Hatvarny and a friend made their way from Manly with nine excited children. One of them, Brodie, 7, said he had watched as much of the series as he could. His favourite player? "David Warner, because he's a good batter." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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