Sydney, January 8 (KMW): Soiled as it was by the Melbourne draw on a poor pitch, this series was no clean sweep, no whitewash. Still, Australia finished the Ashes in the most comprehensive manner left open to them, bathing in the glory of a 4-0 result after thrashing England by an innings and 123 runs in the final Test at the SCG. After 25 days of cricket, the final outcome was confirmed when Josh Hazlewood bounced James Anderson and secured a caught-behind verdict soon after 2pm on day five.
Joe Root, laid low by viral gastroenteritis, did not emerge from the rooms to resume the innings he had already suspended twice, and England’s hopes of salvaging a draw were officially over. Australia celebrated what was very much a team effort, especially with the ball, as evidenced by the final series wicket tally, topped by four Australians in close order: Pat Cummins with 23, Mitchell Starc with 22, and Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon each with 21.
That all five Tests went to a fifth day was a rarity, having not happened in an Ashes series since the 1994-95 campaign in Australia. It was also a series of slow scoring, the overall run rate of 2.95 the lowest in any Ashes series since that same 1994-95 tour. But despite England’s fight, Australia dominated the majority of this contest, and a 4-0 outcome seemed a fitting result.
The day had started with Australia needing six wickets for victory, and with Root and Jonny Bairstow the not-out batsmen. By lunch, Root and Bairstow were still unbeaten, yet as if part of some kind of riddle, England had also lost a wicket. Root was hospitalised overnight due to his illness and had not resumed his innings at the start of play, walking to the crease only after Moeen Ali was lbw for 13, out to Nathan Lyon for the seventh time in the series.
Root battled hard and registered his fifth half-century of the series, but again failed to emerge after the lunch break due to his illness. England’s fight was soon to fade. Bairstow was lbw to Cummins for 38, and two balls later Cummins bounce out Stuart Broad, who fended a catch that was skied to the wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Mason Crane also fell to a short ball from Cummins, caught behind off his glove, curiously asking for a review despite clear evidence the ball had flicked a significant portion of his thumb on the way through to the wicketkeeper. Anderson’s wicket was all Australia needed to secure the result, which was England’s heaviest defeat to Australia in a Test since they lost by an innings and 148 runs at Headingley in 1993.
The post-match presentations rather summed it all up. Man of the Match was Cummins, for his eight wickets. Man of the Series was Steven Smith, for his 687 runs, more than 300 in front of the highest-scoring England batsman, Dawid Malan. And England’s captain, Root, was unable to mount the dais to speak on behalf of his side, instead represented by the vice-captain Anderson. It was just one more thing that had gone wrong for England in a series full of them.