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A year and a half of wound licking by England, culminated in the Ashes series captured by Cook and his men – emphatically won to the point where the mission was already completed by the 4th Test match, allowing the luxury of a consolation win ceded to Australia in the final engagement, albeit the finale providing a stunning triumph for the visitors enabling them to effect much saving of face. The Kennington Oval pitch was assessed as a very good batting surface, and Australia buckled down to erase much of the painful indignity associated with being bundled out for 60 in the first innings at Trent Bridge in that 4th Test.

Swing conditions allowed England, who won the toss, to look quite good, but the Australian batsmen willingly swallowed their pride, going fully on the defensive as the situation warranted. It was evident that Clarke and the rest of the team were contritely accepting the view they had heaped much hard headed misfortune upon themselves by previously refusing to concede a huge difference of approach necessary to meet the requirements of the longer version of the game. Openers Rogers and Warner assiduously put on a hundred before being parted. The two, with 43 and 85 respectively, had laid an excellent foundation far more in keeping with their established reputations enabling the posting of 287 for 3 at close of the first day, hardly commensurate with England's decision to bowl first.

Sustaining the pressure, Steve Smith piled up his second big score, 143 while Starc 58 and Voges 76 helped to amass 481, the second large total by the Aussies. England responded badly with a lack lustre string of failures featuring 30 by Moeen Ali and 24 by Stuart Broad as eminent contributions.

For an uncharacteristic change, Clarke enforced the follow-on. England displayed no appetite in addressing the 332 run deficit and succumbed for 286, suffering defeat by an innings and 46 runs within four days, evidently satisfied with having captured the Ashes 3-2.

Joe Root gained the accolade for Man of the Series - having compiled two centuries, both largely instrumental in deciding the 1st and the 4th Test with 134 and 130. Equally effective for Australia, Smith with 215 and 143 forced victory in the 2nd and the final Tests. Rogers too, enjoyed a great run of success with 95 in the losing cause in the 1st Test and 173 in the second Test at Lords.

Looking back at the series as a whole, one piece of data appears strange - Australia, despite losing the series sported the three highest run scorers in Rogers, Smith and Warner and the three heaviest wicket takers as well in Starc, Hazelwood and Lyon. Such an incongruity transpired because England's bowlers, though less prolific, succeeded in coming good somewhat selectively, but to very telling effect. Thus it can be said Jimmy Anderson won the third Test for England at Edgbaston with 6 for 47 in the first innings to dismiss Australia for 136, and this followed by Steven Finn's 6 for 79 in the 2nd innings as further capitulation on 265 the second time around, leaving England the easy target of 121 for victory.

At Trent Bridge for the next Test, England's requirement was to put nails in the coffin of a seriously wounded Australia in order to clinch the series. This they did in sensational fashion - Australia snuffed out for the meager score of 60. Only Clarke 10 and Johnson 13 reaching double figures. And who was England's Lord High Executioner? None other than Stuart Broad with 8 for 15 within 10 overs operating in deadly fashion on his own home ground. Australia's entire innings lasted 18 overs and 3 balls – the 7th shortest Test innings in history.

To compound Australia's misery, Ben Stokes drummed in on the act with 6 for 37 to suffocate the hapless victims for 253, leaving a deficit of 78 runs for England to bat a second time.

The utter debacle of the first innings read four for 1, 10 for 2, 10 for 3, 15 for 4, 21 for 5, 29 for 6, 33 for 7, 46 for 8, 47 for 9 and 60 all out. The abject woefulness of this impelled Michael Clarke to immediately tender his resignation as captain to take effect at the close of the series, and also he would retire forthwith from Test cricket.

It meant Australia's pride had been sadly pricked – Clarke making no bones about the fact he had always led from in front, which he had completely failed to do in the series. He closed the chapter on his Test career without getting a fifty in the series. Not outpaced by Clarke's chivalrous acceptance of culpability, Chris Rogers, too, sacrificially offered his retirement from Test cricket.

All in all, the poignancy of perspective can be attributed to the sorrow of the extreme reverse suffered by the Australians - having at the previous Ashes engagement humiliated England 5-nil at home in Australia. Soul searching inevitably follows in such situations. It is true England for the most part prepared pitches their bowlers could exploit admirably. However, a patent element here was the remarkably excellent support provided by their slip fielders. The devastating effect of this was portrayed most graphically at Trent Bridge where in the Australian scorecard of 60 all out nine of the victims fell to catches – for the most part taken brilliantly. This adds significance to the saying "catches win matches". Australia used to be the foremost architects of this.


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