* England win series 3-1
* England’s Strauss salutes team for ‘outstanding’ tour
* Third innings defeat for Australia
* Cook named Man of Series
SYDNEY, Jan 7 (Reuters) - England claimed a first Ashes series triumph in Australia in nearly a quarter of a century in the most emphatic style on Friday after wrapping up a third dominant innings victory in five tests.
The tourists, who had already ensured they would retain the Ashes, needed a little more than 17 overs to remove Australia’s last three batsmen on day five of the final test to win the series 3-1 with an innings and 83-run victory.
Free entry had ensured a 19,000 crowd watched the tourists perform the final rites and it was dominated by the red and white clad England fans of the Barmy Army, whose songs and chants echoed around the famous Sydney Cricket Ground.
They celebrated wildly as England, just four years after suffering a first Ashes clean sweep in 86 years, matched the achievement of Mike Gatting’s touring party of 1986-87.
The England players did a lap of honour after being awarded the crystal trophy that symbolises the tiny urn, deemed too fragile to travel the world.
“We can ... be proud of what we’ve achieved because not many teams have come out here and won and certainly not many as emphatically as we did in the end,” said England captain Andrew Strauss.
“So it’s going to be a dressing room full of pride and probably a bit of alcohol as well.”
Australia have lost series by bigger margins but in more than 130 years of test cricket they had never conceded three defeats by an innings or more in a series against any country.
Michael Clarke, whose own form in the series was patchy at best, could have asked for a better time to assume the captaincy, albeit temporarily, from the injured Ricky Ponting.
The 29-year-old conceded his team had been outplayed “in every facet of the game” over the last two months, but did not think it was a time to panic.
“I don’t think there’s a crisis in Australian cricket at all,” he said. “We need a lot of improvement in our game, in all areas. But I do believe we have the talent and potential in that change room to do it. “We’ve seen through this series that guys have stood up at different times, but we’re way too inconsistent to win a big series. That’s what England have shown as a team, they have outplayed us, not one or two individuals.”
One individual who did make a difference was England opener Alastair Cook, who was named Man of the Match for the Sydney test and won the Compton-Miller medal as Man of the Series.
Cook made 189 in Sydney and 766 runs at an average of 127.66 over the fives tests, the second highest by an Englishman in an Ashes series. “I honestly can’t believe what I’ve just done, or the team. We’ll sit and enjoy what we’ve done today and think about tomorrow tomorrow,” said the 26-year-old.
It was Cook’s unbeaten 235 in the first test in Brisbane that rescued England from a perilous position to force a morale-boosting draw and, the Perth defeat aside, England never looked back.
“Thankfully as the series has gone on we’ve become more dominant and certainly the last two test matches were as good as an England side I’ve played in has performed,” said Strauss.
After the drawn first test in Brisbane, England won the second in Adelaide by an innings and 71 runs before Australia fought back to claim the third in Perth by 267 runs.
England again dominated the fourth test in Melbourne with an even more comprehensive victory, an innings and 157 runs, to ensure they would retain the urn they won back from Australia last year in England.
After four dominant days in Sydney this week, just three wickets were required to secure victory on Friday morning.
Resuming their second innings on 213 for seven, still 151 runs behind England’s gargantuan first knock of 644, Australia needed to bat out the last day if they were to claim a draw.
Morning rain showers looked like being their best hope but once they cleared after a 40-minute delay, England’s march to victory was only a matter of time.
Peter Siddle, who had taken six wickets including a hat-trick on a rampant first day of the series at the Gabba, was the first to go for his highest test score of 43.
The seamer was furious with himself after spinner Graeme Swann tempted him into a sweep which James Anderson caught at the boundary in front of the ranks of jubilant England fans.
England took the new ball two overs later and an Anderson fizzer soon had Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind for seven for the outstanding quick bowler’s 24th wicket of the series.
Debutant Michael Beer was the final wicket to fall, bowled by Chris Tremlett for two to leave Steve Smith unbeaten on 54 and Australia all out for 281, one run more than their first innings tally.
“I think when you look back at the history of Ashes confrontations, I think what we’ve achieved here will be remembered pretty fondly,” said Strauss.
Aussies at rock bottom
Dejected skipper Michael Clarke says Australian cricket has hit ‘rock bottom’ after England claimed a crushing innings and 83-run victory in the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG on Friday morning.
The tourists delivered the final humiliating blow at 11.56am local time when Chris Tremlett bowled Michael Beer to claim a convincing 3-1 series win.
It was Australia’s third innings defeat of the campaign, leaving Clarke to concede his side has been outplayed in every facet of the game by a slick England outfit.
“This is probably as rock bottom as it gets,” Clarke said.
“I think the Australian public and fans can certainly only see us going forward, and I know as players we feel the disappointment right now but we do see potential.” “We do think we’ve got some talent in that change room. We do think we’ve got better cricketers than what we’re showing at the moment.”
“We have no excuses though.”
“I’m certain ... the Cricket Australia board will discuss the result of this series and the selectors will discuss the result of this series.” “And every individual, as always, sits in the same shoes. We haven’t performed as well as we need to be a winning Australian cricket team.”
Asked if Friday’s defeat marked his lowest moment as a Test cricketer, Clarke, who has now been involved in three Ashes series defeats, replied: “Probably. Unfortunately I’ve lost a few Ashes series now and they’re all pretty bad, but being the vice-captain of the Australian team and having such a disappointing series myself with the bat, it probably is.”
While Clarke refused to play the blame game, he admits Australia’s preparation could have been better.
“We’ve obviously got to plan and prepare better,” he said.
“For example, me personally I could have done a lot more work against taller fast bowlers before I walked out to bat in Brisbane,” he said.
“Obviously that’s easy to say but hard to, when I’m playing one-dayers in India and first-class cricket for NSW there’s not that much time, but you’ve got to make time.”
“You’ve got to somehow, before the series starts, find a way to prepare against that opposition that you’re coming up against.”
He also admits his side can learn a lot from England’s flawless build-up.
“I think 100 percent we have to learn from what England did this series,” he said.
“Their performance with not only bat and ball but in the field was outstanding for a five-Test series.”
“And I think there’s a great starting point to be able to turn up day every day, day in, day out for five Test matches and perform as well as they did takes a lot of mental strength, takes a lot of discipline and takes a lot of planning before the series.”
But he stopped short of labelling the game at breaking point.
“I don’t think there’s a crisis in Australian cricket at all,” he said.
“We’re very disappointed, as every Australian that supports this great game is.”
“I think we need a lot of improvement in all areas of our game but I do believe we’ve got the talent and the potential in that change room to do it.”
“Obviously we’re very disappointed. No doubt I think England have outplayed us throughout this series in all facets of the game,” he said.
“I think they’ve shown us certainly discipline and execution with the ball, to be able to bowl in that one area for a long period of time and make our batters play a false shot.”
“And I think with the bat they’ve shown us how to go on and make big scores when you get a start.”
“I think that’s probably the two areas throughout this series that we’ve been extremely inconsistent.”
“Certain guys have been able to take five-wicket hauls or make centuries, but certainly not enough to win a big series.”
Aussie media slam ‘worst ever’ team
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian media Friday said their cricket team was the country’s worst ever as they teetered on the brink of a third heavy defeat in the Ashes series against England.
“Our Worst XI,” headlined the Sydney Morning Herald, as Australia started the final day at 228 for seven in their second innings, still 151 behind England’s record first innings of 644.
No Australian team has ever suffered three innings defeats in a single Test series, the newspaper said, calling it “an embarrassment of historic proportions”.
“Australia have been given a cricketing education,” wrote columnist Peter Roebuck. “If England’s victories on home soil were faintly fortuitous then this was the real thing, an execution carried out by an efficient and motivated side.”
England look set to win their first series in Australia since 1987, after already retaining the coveted Ashes urn by taking an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the five-Test series.
“Can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t even think straight,” read another Herald headline. “Revolutions have broken out, palaces stormed and coups de grace mounted for less than this,” stormed columnist Greg Baum.
“Throughout England resembled a boa constrictor, a reptile that wraps itself around its foe and crushes it until its eyeballs pop out,” a front-page opinion piece said.
“Seldom has ruthlessness been as attractively and painfully delivered.”
Disappointed Clarke quits T20 after Ashes woes
* Clarke cites struggles with bat during Ashes
* Cameron White named as T20 captain
SYDNEY, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Australia’s test cricket woes have thrown the Twenty20 team’s preparations into disarray, with disillusioned skipper Michael Clarke quitting the format after struggling with the bat during the 3-1 loss in the Ashes.
Clarke, who replaced the injured Ricky Ponting as captain for the fifth and final Ashes test, led Australia to the final of the T20 World Cup earlier this year but said he wanted more time to become a better test player.
“I’m retiring from international Twenty20 cricket,” the batsman told reporters after leading Australia to an innings and 83-run defeat to England in the Sydney test on Friday.
“I guess, looking back on this series, my test cricket isn’t where I want it at the moment.
“(It) gives me the opportunity to focus wholly and solely on test cricket and one-day and to use that time to play more domestic or first-class cricket for New South Wales and become a better test player.
“I’ve always said test cricket is the ultimate for me. This gives me that opportunity,” added the 29-year-old, who managed a sole half-century in nine innings during the Ashes series.
Clarke was praised for his captaincy during the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean, where Australia were beaten in the final by bitter rivals England, but finished with the lowest average of Australia’s specialist batsmen.
“Obviously my T20 performances haven’t been that great, which made the decision that much easier,” he said.
Cameron White, captain of Victoria state, has been named in Clarke’s place for the two T20 matches against England in Adelaide on Jan. 12 and Melbourne two days later.
Clarke was burdened with the task of leading a demoralised Australia into the final test in Sydney after Ponting was ruled out by his finger injury.
“It’s been a tough couple of months to be honest, we’ve been outplayed in all facets of the game,” he said.
“I think England have shown us what execution and discipline does with the ball and they’ve managed to go and make some big scores with the bat as well.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed like all the boys. We didn’t perform as well as we’d have liked.”
Clarke’s second innings dismissal on 41 after a defiant stand with debutant Usman Khawaja hastened Australia’s third innings defeat in the series, a record low for the team.
He said he had enjoyed walking out as captain wearing Australia’s baggy green cap but gave little suggestion he was eager to stay at the helm ahead of a long period of soul-searching for the under-fire team.
“I think individually, especially being the vice captain, I need to stand up and start scoring some more runs,” he said.