In a fitting finish to Australia regaining the Ashes, it was Mitchell Johnson steaming in with the wind at his back who took the wicket which ended England’s three-series hold on the urn.
Johnson wasn’t considered to be in good enough form for the last Ashes tour, when England completed a 3-0 win at home in August.
Back on Australian soil, he terrorized the England batsmen, taking 23 wickets to help Australia secure its most coveted prize with two matches to spare. After a barren stretch of nine tests without a win, including seven defeats in India and England, Michael Clarke’s Australians have now won three back-to-back and are starting to talk about a 5-0 sweep.
“We got ‘em back, so it’s a fantastic feeling,” Clarke said of the Ashes after his side completed a 150-run win in Perth on Tuesday. That was the smallest winning margin in three comprehensive wins.
“For the guys in the dressing room to feel this, I don’t think you’ll find one bloke who won’t say that this is the pinnacle.
“Playing test cricket against England and winning the Ashes. That’s always been the pinnacle for Australian cricketers.”
Australia came to the WACA ground needing just one win from the last three tests to secure the Ashes for the first time since their 5-0 series sweep in 2006-07. Johnson, with some fiery spells, was man-of-the-match in the 381-run win in Brisbane and the 218-run victory in Adelaide.
The batsmen came to the fore in Perth, where Steve Smith’s 111 and Brad Haddin’s fourth consecutive half century revived Australia’s first innings, and where David Warner (112) and Shane Watson (103) added hundreds in the second.
Australia had seven centuries in the series before England posted one from two-test allrounder Ben Stokes when the game was already slipping away.
Stokes resumed Tuesday on 72, with England at 251-5, and scored a defiant 120 before getting an under-edge to an attempted sweep off Nathan Lyon and was well caught behind by Haddin. His dismissal just after lunch triggered the tailend collapse and England was all out for 353 chasing an improbable 504 for victory.
Johnson took the last wicket, No. 11 Jimmy Anderson, to finish with 4—78 for the innings. Lyon returned 3—70, the pair wrapping up the five wickets Australia needed on the last day.
“We went through what England’s going through now not long ago in the UK,” Clarke said. “We had a tough time of it in the UK and copped a lot of criticism, but we also had a lot of support. For those people who have stuck by us, thank you!”
England captain Alastair Cook, who like Clarke was playing his 100th test, said his team was outplayed.
“We knew how tough it is coming to Australia to play. You’ve got to be at the top of your game and we haven’t been there,” Cook said. “And they’ve been very ruthless and never let us back into any game when they got ahead of us.”
Stokes went in with England reeling at 121—4 on day four and shared partnerships of 99 with Ian Bell (60), 76 with Matt Prior (26) and 40 with Tim Bresnan to delay the inevitable.
The ball was hitting the cracks in the pitch and deviating at angles but Australia’s bowlers could not produce the cluster of wickets they were expecting, taking only the wicket of Prior, who was caught behind off Johnson.
The first—session defiance raised England’s hopes of hanging on for a draw to keep the Ashes alive, but England’s tailend batsmen including a hobbled Stuart Broad, who was unbeaten on 2 provided little resistance.
The remaining two tests are in Melbourne starting Dec. 26 and then Sydney.
“I know everyone’s hurting now. It’s an incredibly tough place to be,” Cook said, predicting there’d be “inquests” after such a lopsided loss.
“Every time we got a partnership going or a few wickets with the ball, Australia always responded better than what we could deal with,” he said. “You have to give a lot of credit to how Australia played in those circumstances and throughout the three games. They’ve been very ruthless with us. When they had a sniff, they’d taken their chances. And when they had us down, they kept us down.”