AND there go the Ashes.
Only 599 days after sealing a 5-0 whitewash on home soil, Australia’s capitulation in the 2015 Investec Ashes was brought to completion early on the third day of the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.
The final margin was an innings and 78 runs, giving England an insurmountable 3-1 lead as they sealed their fifth Ashes victory out of the last seven series.
The visitors were short-priced favourites heading into the tour, but the home side – $5 outsiders when Ashes 2015 kicked off in Wales last month – have proved great value for anyone who saw through all the Aussie hype.
It’s a hugely significant win for a young England squad in transition after the unmitigated disaster that was the 2015 Cricket World Cup, and captain Alastair Cook could not hide his joy with the outcome.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he told the media after the match.
“After what we’ve been through in the last 18 months to play like we have in three out of four Tests against a very good Australia side – we haven’t lost many days of cricket – is just incredible.
“I’m just so proud of this young team and the way they’ve taken their opportunity.”
In the losing camp, Australia head coach Darren Lehmann took responsibility for the selection errors that have left his side unbalanced and out of sync at times during the series.
“As a coach and selectors we’ve got things wrong at certain times, there’s no doubt about that,” Lehmann told the press.
“We’ve got to own up like players have to and everyone else that our performances weren’t good enough, full stop.
“We’ve got to work on how we’re going to move forward.”
Lehmann also admitted the decision to axe allrounder Mitchell Marsh for his older brother, Shaun, was a mistake – one which seems especially costly in light of how effective the hosts’ four-pronged seam attack was in Nottingham.
The swinging conditions at Trent Bridge played right into England’s hands, and they exploited them beautifully from the get-go as Stuart Broad tore through the Aussie batting order with eight wickets in the first innings.
The Notts local now has 21 victims for the series and is Sportsbet’s $1.20 frontrunner to top the overall bowling charts, ahead of Mitchell Starc ($5) and Josh Hazlewood ($11).
Allrounder Ben Stokes picked up where Broad left off, taking six second-innings wickets in what was his most impressive Test match bowling display to date.
In between was another stellar batting performance from Joe Root, who usurped Steven Smith as the world’s number one Test batsman after hitting his second century of the series.
The 24-year-old Yorkshireman is now the $1.80 favourite at www.Bet365.com to top the 2015 Ashes batting stats, before Smith ($11) and Chris Rogers ($2.20).
Smith’s technique and temperament against swing bowling has come under fire after some poor returns in the last two matches, and Lehmann acknowledged that the 25-year-old star would be less than pleased with his efforts in the fourth Test.
“I think Steven would admit himself that he probably let himself down in shot selection,” the former Australia and Yorkshire batsman said.
“He knew what England were going to do, and that’s a learning curve for everyone. Everyone’s learning, coaches, players, and it’s all about getting better.”
There will be no more chances at Ashes redemption for Michael Clarke, who retired from international cricket at the end of a miserable series in which he has scored just 117 runs at 16.71 – by far the worst stats among Australia’s specialist bats.
Speaking to Channel Nine after the defeat in Nottingham, the Australian captain said: “I’ll have one more Test and that will be the end of my career.
“I’m retiring from international cricket. I certainly don’t want to jump ship and leave the boys now, so I’ll play the last Test at The Oval, give it one last crack, but the time is right now.
“You never want to walk away from the game but I think my performances in this series and the last 12 months have not been acceptable to me. I pride myself on leading from the front, so that’s been disappointing.
“You build yourself up for the big series, the big tournaments. One-day cricket is about the World Cup and Test cricket is about the Ashes.
“I certainly tried my best, the boys tried their best and we got outplayed. We got beaten. Now it’s time for the next generation of players, the next captain to have his opportunity to try and build the team and get them ready for the next Ashes series.”
Online bookmaker Sportsbet.com is running several Ashes betting specials for Clarke’s final bow in the fifth Test, which starts on Thursday, August 20 at The Oval.
Props markets on the outgoing Australian skipper include: to score a century ($4.50); to score a double century ($21); and to have the highest individual score for the match ($11).
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