Australia fought past a determined rearguard to seal their third big win in a row against archrivals England and regain the Ashes in style yesterday after a four-year wait.
In front of a delirious crowd at Perth’s WACA Ground, England’s resistance came to an end after lunch on the last day as they were all out for 353, a deficit of 150 runs.
The victory, which followed wins of 381 and 218 runs in Brisbane and Perth respectively, gave Australia an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
It capped a remarkable turnaround for Australia, who were unfancied going into the series just months after a 3-0 loss in England.
“I don’t really know what to say. We’ve got them back, I couldn’t be happier,” Australia captain Michael Clarke said of the Ashes.
English rookie Ben Stokes, 22, frayed Australia’s nerves with a dogged 120, his maiden Test century, before he was caught by Brad Haddin after lunch, triggering a clatter of England’s last wickets.
Fittingly, fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, whose destructive spells have played a large part in Australia’s series victory, took the decisive scalp when he had tail-ender James Anderson caught at short leg.
England captain Alastair Cook said the heavy defeat was painful.
“We have been outskilled in all aspects, and it is hard to say that. They have been ruthless. It hurts,” Cook said.
However, the pain may not be over for England as Clarke, now seeking a return to the world No. 1 ranking for Australia, sets his immediate sights on a 5-0 whitewash.
Some critics have suggested that some of Australia’s motivation to win stemmed from England’s celebrations of their August triumph, when some players were seen urinating on the pitch at The Oval in London.
There is no love lost between the teams. This series’ first Test included heated exchanges between Clarke and Anderson, while in the second, Johnson and Stokes had a mid-pitch collision.
On the eve of the first Test, Clarke was so hard-nosed in his approach to the buildup that he was compared with Allan Border, who earned the nickname “Captain Grumpy” as he dragged Australian cricket out of the doldrums in the mid-1980s.
“We certainly haven’t tried to be any tougher, or play any different, we know how we play our best cricket and we tried to play like that,” Clarke said yesterday.
“I guess over [the] years, though, if you don’t have success, if you’re not performing as you’d like as an individual player or as a team, you get to a place where you get sick of losing, or sick of not getting runs, or not taking wickets,” he added.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann and Clarke had repeatedly said that the series in England was closer than the scoreline reflected, but few had agreed with them.
Australia were in a shambles before the last series in England, coming off a 4-0 series defeat in India, overshadowed by the “homeworkgate’” episode — when players were banned for not complying with off-field tasks — and had a terrible Champions Trophy defense.