Australia Bask In Ashes Whitewash Glory
Australia crushed England by 10 wickets in the fifth test to complete their first Ashes whitewash in 86 years and send Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer into retirement in a blaze of glory.
Australia wrapped up another emphatic victory with a day and a half to spare at the Sydney Cricket Ground when Matthew Hayden struck the winning run 12 minutes before lunch on the fourth day to trigger one of the biggest farewell parties in cricket history.
"To win 5-0 and finish on such a high was just fantastic," Warne said.
"In my 16 international seasons, I don't think I've been involved in a cricket side that's played relentless and tough cricket like we've played this summer."
McGrath took a wicket with his final delivery in test cricket to finish off England's second innings on 147 after they had started the day on 114 for five.
"I guess if you had to write the script for the perfect ending obviously to get a wicket on your last ball of test cricket is the perfect way to do it," McGrath said.
Australia took less than 11 overs to chase down the 46 runs needed for victory but Langer was so overcome with emotion that he spurned the chance to hit the winning runs and asked Hayden to finish it off quickly.
"I'm actually a little relieved it's over to be honest...I was getting a bit emotional out there," Langer said.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who was named player of the series, said his team had avenged their 2005 Ashes defeat and silenced the critics who had taunted their ageing team as a spent force.
"Lots of so-called experts said (England) would win....so it's a great feeling right at the moment," Ponting said.
"The last six or seven weeks have been the best of my cricketing life...it's 80-something years since it's happened in Australia so we should savour it."
England captain Andrew Flintoff was gracious in defeat, admitting his side had been comprehensively outplayed.
"We came up against a side that's been fantastic throughout," Flintoff said.
"Australia hit us hard in the first game and in patches we've competed with them and played some good cricket but every time we've tried to put our foot in the door it's been closed in front of us.
"They've raised the bar in this series, they've just been awesome all-round...they really made it tough for us."
England started the fourth day in a hopeless position and any chance of a miracle disappeared when they lost their last five wickets for just 33 runs.
McGrath picked up three of the last five wickets to lift his career tally to 563, the most by any fast bowler, while world record holder Warne failed to add to his once unimaginable haul of 708.
Kevin Pietersen, England's last recognised batsman, departed to the third ball of the day when he edged a simple catch off McGrath to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist without adding to his overnight score of 29.
Nightwatchman Monty Panesar was dismissed for his second duck in the match when he was run out by a direct hit from Andrew Symonds.
Wicketkeeper Chris Read hit one boundary but failed to score again before edging Brett Lee into the safe hands of Ponting at second slip.
McGrath clean bowled Sajid Mahmood for four and finished off the innings when he had James Anderson caught by Mike Hussey at mid-on for five, leaving Steve Harmison stranded on 16.
Australia's reply was typically calculated and ruthless. Hayden and Langer, statistically Australia's greatest ever opening partnership, started cautiously to ensure there were no mishaps but were quickly into their stride.
Both left-handers smacked two boundaries before Hayden went in for the kill, belting Mahmood over the fence for six to tie the scores then flicking a single behind point to seal victory and kick-start the celebrations.
"We've had to work hard and have a look at ourselves. I knew this team wouldn't make the same mistakes as last time," Ponting said.
"We've played outstanding cricket, everyone should be proud about that."
© Reuters 2007.
By Julian Linden