England celebrate 3-1 win - Aussies suffer ignominy
Australian press lambast the ‘saggy greens’ after England's record-breaking Ashes victory
England defied the weather to finish off the Australian tail in Sydney this morning and secure their first series win Down Under in 24 years. The Aussies began the fifth day of the fifth Test match trailing England by 151 runs with only three wickets left, and it was always a question of 'when' not 'if' England crushed Australian resistance.
A 40-minute break for rain shortly after play began delayed the inevitable though failed to dampen the spirits of the thousands of England fans packed into the Sydney Cricket Ground. When play resumed, England wasted no time in finishing the match, skittling out Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus before Chris Tremlett bowled Michael Beer to spark wild scenes of celebrations.
"We came over here desperately wanting to win the series," said Andrew Strauss, only the third England captain to win an Ashes series both home and away. "Obviously in Melbourne we retained the Ashes but we really wanted to finish with a bang here in Sydney. All credit to the guys, they've been outstanding again, the way the bowlers bowled on day one, the batsmen dipped their bread in it again and we got another victory."
Opening batsman Alastair Cook was named both man of the match and man of the series, having scored more runs in a Test series than any other England player bar Wally Hammond in 1928-29. "It's been an amazing series for me, I couldn't imagine this seven weeks ago," he said, before paying tribute to England's bowling attack: "Our bowlers have been fantastic throughout the whole series, they've made our job as batters far easier."
One of those bowlers, James Anderson, finished the series with 24 wickets, the best tally in Australia since Frank Tyson's 28 in the 1954-55 series. "It's been a great tour for us, an amazing sort of feeling for us retaining the Ashes last week and winning the series this week," said Anderson, who was a member of the England side whitewashed 5-0 in Australia four years ago.
"I'm delighted with my form this trip, enjoying my role in the team leading the attack. My job has been made easy by the guys at the other end, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad at the start of the series and Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan later on."
After a lap of honour in front of the delirious 'Barmy Army', Strauss led his men into the changing room with a promise that "we're certainly going to enjoy this evening".
For Australia, the enjoyment has long since gone out of their cricket. England's victory in the Sydney Test by an innings and 83 runs was the third innings defeat of the series for the Aussies – the first time in Test history that the home side has lost three Tests in a series by such a margin. In addition, it was the first time Australia had lost three Tests in a home series since the great West Indian side of 1988-89 inflicted a 3-1 defeat Down Under.
The ignominy was too much to bear for Michael Clarke, standing in for the injured Ricky Ponting as captain in Sydney. He announced his retirement from Twenty20 internationals in the wake of today's defeat, and several of his humiliated Australian teammates can almost certainly kiss their Test careers goodbye.
"Occasionally you've got to look at it and say, 'You're not good enough, lads'," reflected Dean Jones, a former great of the Australian game. "And I think there's a fair bit more rubbish to go through. I don't think we've hit rock bottom yet."
Such a gloomy prediction was mirrored in the Australian press coverage of the defeat. While the Sydney Morning Herald changed the nickname of the team from 'baggy greens' [after the caps worn by the Australian players] to 'saggy greens', the Melbourne Herald Sun asked its readers in an online poll whether this was the worst Australian team ever to grace a cricket field. Eighty eight per cent of readers [12,000 respondents] said it was – though one wonders how many of those were Poms rubbing salt into the wounds.