SYDNEY (AP and ACNI)—Cricket is a national obsession in England, but for the past 24 years, fans haven’t had all that much to cheer about — until now. England inflicted an unprecedented third innings victory upon Australia on Friday, providing a fitting finish for Andrew Strauss and his team after thoroughly dominating the Ashes series.
England completed an innings and 83-runs run victory before lunch on the last day at the Sydney Cricket Ground—taking the last wicket as a trumpeter played The Last Post for a humbled Australian squad—to seal a 3-1 series win.
It was England’s first test series win in Australia since 1987 and the first time since 1978-79 that the English have won back-to-back test matches in Australia. Strauss’ squad was also the first ever to inflict three innings defeats on Australia in a single series.
Alastair Cook scored 189 in the first innings here to help England post 644, its highest total ever in Australia, and to become the most prolific English run scorer in an Ashes series since Wally Hammond in 1928-29.
Jimmy Anderson took three second-innings wickets, and eight for the match, as Australia was dismissed for 280 and 281, unable to handle the reverse swing and the disciplined line and length of England’s bowling unit.
“It feels pretty special, if I’m honest,” Strauss said after receiving the old urn. England retained the Ashes by taking a 2-1 lead with an emphatic victory at Melbourne last week but was desperate to go one better and win the series outright.
“Until an Ashes series is finally over you’ve got half an eye on what’s to come, so even in Melbourne we were still very conscious that we wanted to finish on a high and show people that we deserved to win this series.
“Now we’ve done that we can … be very proud of what we’ve achieved because not many sides have come out here and won, certainly not many … as emphatically as we did in the end.”
It was just a matter of time Friday for the series to be wrapped up, with England only requiring three wickets and Australia having no chance of victory.
Steve Smith (54 not out) and Peter Siddle (43) prolonged Australia’s resistance for an hour around a couple of suspensions for rain, but Graeme Swann broke the 86-run, eighth-wicket stand when he had Siddle caught on the boundary by Anderson.
Anderson (3-61) then had Ben Hilfenhaus (7) caught behind and Chris Tremlett (3-79) picked off No. 11 Michael Beer (2) to end the test and cue wild celebrations among England players and its ‘Barmy Army’ supporters.
In one of the few highlights for Australia, young allrounder Smith raised his second test half century with a stylish late cut to the boundary off Anderson.
Critics have called for a complete overhaul of Australian cricket, starting with the administration and the national team.
“Pretty disappointing and a hard pill to swallow,” said Mike Hussey, Australia’s leading batsman in the series. “But you’ve got to give credit to England. They deserved the 3-1 scoreline.”
The English batsmen and bowling unit dominated at the SCG as they had done in the series. Only two Australian batsmen scored centuries in the series, while three English batsmen produced hundreds in this match alone.
Cook scored 766 runs in the series, second only to Hammond’s 905 in 1928-29 in the list of English batsmen in the Ashes and was a deserving winner of the player of the series award.
“To win man of the match in the final game of the Ashes is a dream come true,” Cook said. “Our bowlers have been fantastic throughout the whole series. They’ve put some pressure on the Australians the whole series, made our jobs a lot easier.
The fifth test defeat was a major setback for Michael Clarke, who was playing his first test as Australia captain after Ricky Ponting was ruled out with a broken finger, and auditioning as the long-term replacement. Plagued by poor shot selection throughout the series, Clarke immediately retired from Twenty20 cricket to concentrate on long forms of the game.
“It’s been a tough couple of months. England has outplayed us in all facets,” Clarke said. “We’re disappointed we haven’t put on a good enough show. We need to get back to the drawing board and work our backsides off.”
Clarke said the Australian squad had the talent to rebound and said there was no reason for panic.
Most commentators disagreed.
As veteran analyst Peter Roebuck wrote on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, “Despair has descended upon Australian cricket. Embarrassment has become an acquaintance.
“Humiliation has introduced itself. Calamity has piled upon calamity.”
On the back page, the usually conservative broadsheet highlighted: “After 135 years, 730 matches and 417 players Australia have finally fielded Our Worst XI.”
Australia great Neil Harvey never masks his opinion about players or administrators. His blunt assessment was that Australia had to “bite the bullet” and overhaul the team. England great Geoffrey Boycott blamed selectors for chopping and changing the team.
Officials opened the gates for free entry on an overcast final day, and a crowd exceeding 12,000—mostly England fans—soaked up the final hours of the series.
Strauss summed it up for them: “If you look back at the history of Ashes confrontations, what we’ve achieved here will be remembered pretty fondly.”
The game of cricket has a known history dating back to the 16th century. International matches have been played since 1844, although the official history of international Test cricket began in 1877. During this time, the game developed from its origins in England into a game that is now played professionally in most of the Commonwealth of Nations.
No one knows when or where cricket originated, but there is a body of evidence, much of it circumstantial, that strongly suggests the game was devised during Saxon or Norman times by children living in the Weald, an area of dense woodlands and clearings in the southeastern English counties of Kent and Sussex. Cricket was increasingly taken up by adults around the beginning of the 17th century.
Possibly based on the game of “bowls” (modern: lawn bowling), its original implements may have been a matted lump of sheep’s wool or even a stone or small lump of wood) to serve as the ball; and a stick, shepherd’s crook or farm tool as the bat. A stool or tree stump may have been used as a primitive wicket.
The origin of the term “cricket” is not definitely known. In the earliest known reference to the sport in 1598, it is called “creckett.” The name may have been derived from the Middle Dutch “krick(-e),” meaning a stick; or the Old English “cricc” or “cryce” meaning a crutch or staff.
About the Ashes:
The Ashes is a Test cricket series played between England and Australia. It is the most celebrated rivalry in international cricket and dates back to 1882. It is currently played biennially, alternately in the United Kingdom and Australia. Cricket being a summer sport, and the venues being in opposite hemispheres, the break between series alternates between 18 and 30 months.
A series of “The Ashes” comprises five Test matches, two innings per match, under the regular rules for Test match cricket. If a series is drawn then the country already holding the Ashes retains them.
The series is named after a satirical obituary published in 1882 in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, after a match at The Oval (London) in which Australia beat England on an English ground for the first time. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882–83) as the quest to regain The Ashes. During that tour a small terracotta urn was presented to England captain Ivo Bligh by a group of Melbourne women. The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of an item of cricket equipment, a bail.
The urn is erroneously believed by some to be the trophy of the Ashes series, but it has never been formally adopted as such, and Bligh always considered it to be a personal gift. Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series, but the actual urn has never been presented or displayed as a trophy in this way. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord’s Cricket Ground since being presented to the MCC by Bligh’s widow upon his death.
Since the 1998–99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn has been presented to the winners of an Ashes series as the official trophy of that series.
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Catherine Saunders-Watson gratefully acknowledges Wikipedia.org as the resource from which some of the historical information in this article was obtained.
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