England clinched its first Test series victory in Australia in 24 years by wrapping up the fifth and final match by an innings and 83 runs on Friday to take the Ashes series 3-1.
The Sydney Cricket Ground triumph gave England an unprecedented third victory by an innings in a single series against Australia, which has been condemned in the domestic media as the country’s worst ever Test team.
It was also the first time since 1978—79 that England had won back—to—back Test matches in Australia and the first time since 1987 that the English have won a Test series Down Under.
England captain Andrew Strauss praised his squad, which humiliated an Australian lineup which only four years ago swept the Ashes 5—0 at home.
“We came over here desperately wanting to win the series. In Melbourne we retained the Ashes, but in Sydney we really wanted to finish with a bang,” Strauss said. “We’re delighted with what we’ve done. We’re certainly going to enjoy this evening.”
It was just a matter of time on Friday for the series to be wrapped up on the last day, with England only requiring three wickets and Australia having no chance of levelling it.
Steve Smith (54 not out) and Peter Siddle (43) prolonged Australia’s resistance for an hour around a couple of suspensions for rain, but Graeme Swann broke the 86—run, eighth—wicket stand when he had Siddle caught on the boundary by Jimmy Anderson.
Anderson (3—61) then had Ben Hilfenhaus (7) caught behind to collect his third wicket for the innings. Chris Tremlett (3—79) picked off No. 11 Michael Beer (2), just as the trumpet player for the Barmy Army started “The Last Post” for the Australian team, to finish it off before lunch.
In one of the few highlights for Australia, young all rounder Smith raised his second Test half century with a stylish late cut to the boundary off Anderson.
Critics have called for a complete overhaul of Australian cricket, starting with the administration and the national team.
“Pretty disappointing and a hard pill to swallow,” said Mike Hussey, Australia’s leading batsman in the series. “But you’ve got to give credit to England. They deserved the 3—1 scoreline.”
The English batsmen and bowling unit dominated at the SCG as they had done in the series. Only two Australian batsmen scored centuries in the series, while three English batsmen produced hundreds in this match, in England’s highest ever total in Australia of 644.
Alastair Cook became the most prolific English run scorer in an Ashes series in eight decades with his 189 in England’s innings giving him 766 for the series, only Wally Hammond’s 905 in 1928—29 has been better for England. Cook was voted player of the series.
“To win man of the match in the final game of the Ashes is a dream come true,” Cook said. “Our bowlers have been fantastic throughout the whole series. They’ve put some pressure on the Australians the whole series, made our jobs a lot easier.
It was a major setback for Michael Clarke, who was playing his first Test as Australia captain after Ricky Ponting was ruled out with a broken finger. He immediately retired from Twenty20 cricket to concentrate on his batting.
“It’s been a tough couple of months. England has outplayed us in all facets,” he said. “We’re disappointed we haven’t put on a good enough show. We need to get back to the drawing board and work our backsides off.”
Clarke said the Australian squad had the talent, but needed to be more consistent and said there was no reason for panic.
Most commentators disagreed.
As veteran analyst Peter Roebuck wrote on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, “Despair has descended upon Australian cricket. Embarrassment has become an acquaintance.”
“Humiliation has introduced itself. Calamity has piled upon calamity.”
On the back page, the usually conservative broadsheet highlighted- “After 135 years, 730 matches and 417 players Australia have finally fielded Our Worst XI.”
Greg Baum, columnist for Melbourne—based The Age, said Australia’s defeats have been “as feeble and as abject as can be imagined. The cricket community has a right to be angry. Heads must roll.”
Former Test fast bowler Stuart Clark said the Australian attack needed more variety, and called for a tall paceman to be fast—tracked at the top level.
Australia great Neil Harvey never masks his opinion about players or administrators. His blunt assessment was that Australia had to “bite the bullet” and start from scratch. England great Geoffrey Boycott blamed selectors for chopping and changing the team.
Keywords: Ashes series