Australia seal whitewash

Australia have clinched an Ashes series whitewash for just the second time in history with a commanding performance on the fourth day in Sydney. While an Australian victory appeared inevitable at the start of play, the unstoppable push towards the win symbolised the dominance of the home side throughout the entire series. England went down in four of the five tests by humbling margins, and a horrific final day capitulation cost them the chance of a draw in the only close test in Adelaide.

Australia began the day needing five more English wickets to set up the chase, and it took just three deliveries for McGrath to make the key breakthrough, removing Kevin Pietersen. It was a trademark McGrath dismissal to begin his final day of test cricket, with the ball leaving the batsman fractionally outside the off-stump, and caught Gilchrist, bowled McGrath appearing on the scoresheet for the 90th time in test history.

It was only a matter of time for England after Pietersen’s dismissal, with just the bowlers and Read remaining, and some sharp fielding from Andrew Symonds hastened the end. Panesar nudged the ball away on the off-side and called for a quick single, and Symonds scooped up the ball and threw down middle stump at the bowler’s end, leaving Panesar with a pair for the test. England finally got runs on the board for the day thanks to a Mahmood edge, but the next over brought the third wicket of the morning, as Lee found a regulation edge to second slip, where Ponting took a sensational diving catch to dismiss Read. McGrath then made it three wickets in as many overs with a sensational ball to bowl Mahmood, pitching well outside off-stump and jagging back to crash into the pad and then the stumps.

England led by just 22 runs with the final pair at the crease, but the tail finally offered some token resistance. Harmison clubbed MCGrath down the ground for a boundary to begin the last wicket stand, and Anderson edged another boundary through the slips off McGrath’s next over. Harmison carried the innings past drinks with a second boundary from a Warne full toss, but the first over after drinks brought the end of proceedings, with McGrath removing Anderson with a slower ball, skied to mid-on.

Left with just 46 to win, Australia could offer a perfect send-off to Justin Langer, who strode to the crease to the deafining cheers of the crowd and through an English guard of honour. Langer struggled early in his innings and played second fiddle to Hayden throughout the unbroken stand, but remained unbeaten in his final test innings. After some tight early bowling from the England seamers, Hayden took advantage of the introduction of Sajid Mahmood, hammering two fours off his first over and a huge six off his second, before nudging the winning single through the covers to seal the whitewash.

The Australian players stormed the field in celebration at the completion of the chase, and tears from several players showed the significance of the occasion. Australian cricket says goodbye not just to Warne, McGrath, Langer and coach Buchanan, but to a period of dominance in world cricket that is close to unparalled in the history of the sport. The time ahead is an exciting one with a changing of the guard, but the team will, in all probability, never be quite the same.

For England, the humiliation of a 5-0 defeat will be lessened only by the knowledge that the opposition has been world class throughout. With a string of Australian retirements and an English team on the rise, the 2009 Ashes promises a closer contest, but for now the gap between 1st and 2nd in the world appears as wide as it has ever been. England’s tour of Australia continues on Tuesday with a 20/20 international, followed by a triangular one day series that also involves New Zealand.

England 291
Andrew Flintoff 89, Ian Bell 71
Stuart Clark 3-62, Glenn McGrath 3-67

Australia 393
Shane Warne 71, Adam Gilchrist 62
James Anderson 3-98, Steve Harmison 2-80

England 147
Kevin Pietersen 29, Ian Bell 28
Glenn McGrath 3-38, Brett Lee 3-39

Australia 46-0
Matthew Hayden 23*, Justin Langer 20*

Australia win by 10 wickets.
Australia win the five test series 5-0.

CricketWeb Man of the Match
Adam Gilchrist – 62 & nine dismissals.

CricketWeb Man of the Series
Ricky Ponting – 576 runs @ 82.28, four catches.

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