Showing their sheer dominance, fast bowlers helped Australia thrash England by 146 runs in the fifth and final Test on Day 3, to clinch the 2021/22 Ashes series 4-0 and to retain the urn, here on Sunday.
Despite Mark Wood’s lion-hearted efforts to keep his side in the contest with his career-best 6 for 39 to bowl Australia out in their second innings for 155 and set England a realistic chase of 271, visitors folded from 0-68 a ball prior to tea to 124 all out just 22.4 overs later.
It was a 17-wicket day — just the third of such carnage in Tests played in Australia over the past 25 years, and the second since yesterday — saw Australia complete such a clinical win that off-spinner Nathan Lyon wasn’t required to bowl a ball during the match.
The Australia fast bowlers showed their mastery with wickets shared between skipper Pat Cummins (3-42), Scott Boland (3-18), Cameron Green (3-21) and Mitchell Starc (1-30).
Chasing a challenging target of 271 to win, Rory Burns and Zak Crawley logged England’s highest opening partnership of the tour in a quick-fire fashion that belied their previous struggles in the series. However, Burns (26) chopped on to Cameron Green at the stroke of tea and his partner Crawley was 32 not out when tea was called.
After the interval, it was Green, who opened the floodgates by picking quick wickets. Dawid Malan wore a bouncer on his head and then chopped a delivery onto his stumps. Crawley, who had moved on to 36 serenely, went searching for a booming drive to a full Green ball that swung away late and nicked off to the keeper.
Joe Root and Ben Stokes joined hands to revive England’s chase, but the latter fell to a short ball from Mitchell Starc and England’s hopes plummeted.
Scott Boland then got into the act, dismissing Root for the fourth time in the series. The England captain was a tad unlucky to receive one that stayed low and went beneath his bat to crash into the stumps. Sam Billings chipped one to mid-on off Boland soon after and Cummins cleaned up Ollie Pope to leave England at 107/7.
Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson were dismissed in the space of six balls as England went from 82/1 to 124 all out, conceding the match by 146 runs.
Earlier, resuming at 37/3, Wood into fourth over of the day’s play hit the hard length and got a delivery to climb steeply towards Scott Boland’s throat, something the nightwatchman could only glove to the ‘keeper. Two overs later, he dismissed first-innings centurion Travis Head, who became the latest in a list of batsmen strangled down the legside in this game.
The short-ball bowling got the biggest reward when Smith got out on the pull at fine-leg. Australia at that stage were reduced to 63/6 with England entertaining the possibility of chasing a target under or close to 200.
However, there was resistance from Aussie batters as Alex Carey and Cameron Green got together to add some important runs with some luck along the way. Carey played on to a Chris Woakes delivery while on 19 only for the third umpires to reveal that the bowler had marginally overstepped. Carey was also adjudged LBW, a decision that he overturned with a review.
The 49-run partnership was eventually ended when Broad had Green ruled out LBW with a review. Wood then returned for another spell and used his patented short ball to have Mitchell Starc caught at short leg. Carey wasn’t done, though, and he and Pat Cummins gave Australia more cushion with 30 crucial runs before Carey (49) was caught behind off Stuart Broad’s bowling.
Wood’s 6-37 was the best Test innings return by a visiting bowler in Australia since Jasprit Bumrah’s 6-33 for India at the MCG last summer, and the best by an England bowler in an away Ashes contest since Matthew Hoggard’s 7-109 in his team’s famous lost cause at Adelaide in 2006.
Brief scores: Australia 303 & 155 (Alex Carey 49; Mark Wood 6-37) beat England 188 & 124 (Zak Crawley 36; Scott Boland 3-18, Pat Cummins 3-42, Cameron Green 3-21) by 146 runs.