Australia defeated England by an innings and 46 runs on Sunday in the fifth and final Ashes Test for a consolation victory at The Oval.
Resuming the fourth day on 203-6, England were all out for 286 in 101.4 overs.
Peter Siddle claimed 4-35 on a rain-hit day as Australia won with more than a day to spare.
England had an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the series, having regained the urn by winning the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.
However, Australia will take some comfort in losing 3-2, rather than 4-1, in captain Michael Clarke’s last Test.
The fifth Test took on a familiar pattern, with the side that gained the first significant advantage going on to win. None of the five Tests lasted their full five days in a series full of batting collapses.
At The Oval, England never looked in the match after Australia’s first innings of 481 — with Steven Smith scoring 143 — and Clarke enforced his first follow-on as captain after England’s first-innings 149.
Victory for the hosts would have been the first time the English had ever won four Tests in a five-match Ashes series in England. However, England will still be delighted to win a series it was widely expected to lose, and claimed their fourth successive home series victory over Australia.
“We had a Test match to try and win, but maybe we underestimated the emotional highs from Trent Bridge and how hard it would be to get back up to that level you really need to beat Australia,” Cook said. “Of course, we’d love to be sitting here at 4-1 rather than 3-2... It’s a little bit disappointing, but I’m not going to worry about it too much tonight.”
England vice captain Joe Root was named man of the series with 460 runs.
Under their new Australian coach Trevor Bayliss, the series result takes England up to third in the world rankings, just behind Australia with South Africa at the top. England have a series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates followed by a tour of South Africa in winter.
As well as Clarke, who played his 115th Test match, 37-year-old opener Chris Rogers is also quitting the international game for Australia. There is a sense this is the last series for the current generation — including Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Adam Voges — before a new era begins in Australia Test cricket under Smith, the newly appointed captain.
Clarke, who has now been on the losing side in all four of his Ashes tours, said the team was “full of talent.”
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