Andrew Flintoff's hapless side took its place in the record books this morning when England fell to a 10-wicket defeat to Australia in the fifth Test. The defeat gave Australia a 5-0 series victory and sent England crashing to their first Ashes whitewash in 86 years.
England were never likely to win the Test from their overnight position but the manner in which they capitulated would have been distressing to those that have travelled to Australia or watched this one-sided contest throughout cold winter nights. They, like Flintoff's beleaguered troops, began the series full of optimism and hope yet they finish it trying to make sense of what has taken place in the last two months.
Winning in Australia was always going to be a huge challenge but the calamitous nature of the tour and the endless list of mistakes made by England ensured that it was anything but the contest the cricketing world witnessed in 2005.
Matthew Hayden finished the game when he pushed Sajid Mahmood in to the covers for a single to take his side to 46 without loss but each of Australia's three retiring heroes - Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer - played their part of an emotional morning. It signified the end of an era for Australia and cricket in general.
McGrath took three wickets in his final spell as a Test cricketer as England were bundled out for 147 in their second innings, which a total that left Australia requiring just 46 for victory. James Anderson became McGrath's last Test victim when he chipped a simple catch to mid-on. It completed England's humiliation and took the fast bowler's career tally to 563 in 124 Tests. Australians are not known for their sentimentality but Ricky Ponting showed it when he replaced the dangerous looking Brett Lee with Shane Warne after England had lost their ninth wicket.
The move was popular as it gave the huge crowd one final chance to see Warne and McGrath bowl in tandem. But, embarrassingly for England, it also highlighted the inequality of the contest. Each vied for the final wicket. Warne thought he had Stephen Harmison stumped but the third umpire ruled in the batsman's favour.
McGrath then found the outside edge of Anderson's bat and the ball flew to Warne at first slip. The crowd sighed. But the ball landed just in front of Warne, went through his legs, and ran away for four. It was not Warne's moment, he has had enough of them, and with 708 Test wickets to his name he can retire a proud and happy man.
England's collapse was dramatic even by their standards, but once Kevin Pietersen was dismissed by the third ball of the day a quick and unsavoury death was always probable. And it would have been even worse but for a few lusty blows from Stephen Harmison. As it was five fell for the addition of 33 runs in 75 minutes of one-sided cricket.
Pietersen is the sort of character who would have gone to bed last night believing that he could produce the unimaginable but these aspirations ended when edged a simple catch through to Adam Gilchrist. There was nothing special about the delivery that dismissed him, it was a ball McGrath has bowled on thousands and thousands of occasions in his brilliant career, but it was perfectly positioned for a batsman that was attempting to reacclimatise.
Pietersen had to play at it but it was with hope rather than certainty that he pushed forward. McGrath enjoyed the wicket. The fast bowler has played against Pietersen on eight occasions in Test cricket but it would be safe to say that he has caused him more problems than any other England batsman. Pietersen's departure left Chris Read, who was playing for his Test future, to bat with England's tail. It was an unenviable act. Monty Panesar, the nightwatchman, bravely fended off two hostile overs from a fired-up Lee and it was hard to see where England were going to score a run. In four overs the only column that had changed was that containing wickets.
And in attempt to get England moving Read pushed McGrath in to the off-side and set off for an ambitious single. The call appeared to catch a bruised Panesar by surprise and Andrew Symonds swooped, picking the ball up at extra cover and plucking middle stump out of the ground with a deadly accurate throw. A dive may have seen Panesar make his ground but it would have been nothing more than a futile gesture.
Sajid Mahmood scored England's first runs of the morning when he edged McGrath for four and Read then drove Lee to the extra cover boundary. They are probably the last runs Read will score for England. In the following over the England keeper pushed weakly at a short of a length ball from Lee and edged a catch to the slip cordon. Ponting has had little work to do at second slip in the series but he dived to his left to take a wonderful catch.
Mahmood had his stumps rearranged in the next over when McGrath nipped one thorough his flimsy defence. In 34 minutes England had pathetically lost four wickets for the addition of just nine runs.
The result of the Test may have been a formality but it did not prevent cricket lovers from flooding to the Sydney Cricket Ground in their thousands to pay their final respects to three cricketing giants. The demand to say 'I was there' when Warne, McGrath and Langer waved goodbye to Test cricket created scenes outside this famous old ground that were reminiscent of those at Old Trafford in 2005.
If England are to witness the feats of 2005 in 2009 a lot of hard work and thought will be required. It starts now.
Third/Fourth-day scoreboard from Sydney
England won toss; third day of five
England - First Innings 291 (A Flintoff 89, I R Bell 71).
Australia - First Innings (Overnight: 188 for 4)
J L Langer c Read b Anderson 26
41 min, 27 balls, 4 fours
M L Hayden c Collingwood b Harmison 33
113 min, 77 balls, 5 fours
*R T Ponting run out Anderson 45
96 min, 72 balls, 6 fours
M E K Hussey c Read b Anderson 37
119 min, 100 balls, 3 fours, 1 six
M J Clarke c Read b Harmison 11
39 min, 24 balls, 1 four
A Symonds b Panesar 48
137 min, 95 balls, 6 fours
ÝA C Gilchrist c Read b Anderson 62
118 min, 72 balls, 8 fours
S K Warne st Read b Panesar 71
114 min, 65 balls, 9 fours, 2 sixes
B Lee c Read b Flintoff 5
13 min, 10 balls, 1 four
S R Clark c Pietersen b Mahmood 35
56 min, 41 balls, 1 four
G D McGrath not out 0
7 min, 3 balls
Extras (lb10 w4 nb6) 20
Total (431 min, 96.3 overs) 393
Fall: 1-34 (Langer), 2-100 (Hayden), 3-118 (Ponting), 4-155 (Clarke), 5-190 (Hussey), 6-260 (Symonds), 7-318 (Gilchrist), 8-325 (Lee), 9-393 (Clark), 10-393 (Warne).
Bowling: Flintoff 17-2-56-1 (nb3, w1) (3-0-19-0; 3-0-12-0; 6-2-10-0; 4-0-9-1; 1-0-6-0); Anderson 26-8-98-3 (w1) (7-3-20-1; 5-2-20-0; 5-2-15-0; 3-1-14-1; 6-0-29-1); Harmison 23-5-80-2 (nb1, w2) (4-0-23-0; 4-2-2-1; 8-3-9-1; 2-0-4-0; 1-0-11-0; 2-0-18-0; 1-0-4-0; 1-0-9-0); Mahmood 11-1-59-1 (nb2) (4-1-15-0; 5-0-36-0; 1-0-6-0; 1-0-2-1); Panesar 19.3-0-90-2 (11-0-36-0; 1-0-9-0; 6-0-36-1; 1.3-0-9-1).
Gilchrist's 50: 95 min, 59 balls, 6 fours. Warne's 50: 81 min, 47 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes.
England - Second Innings
(Overnight 114 for 5)
A J Strauss lbw b Clark 24
68 min, 45 balls, 3 fours
A N Cook c Gilchrist b Lee 4
11 min, 8 balls, 1 four
I R Bell c Gilchrist b Lee 28
85 min, 51 balls, 5 fours
K P Pietersen c Gilchrist b McGrath 29
P D Collingwood c Hayden b Clark 17
68 min, 36 balls, 3 fours
*A Flintoff st Gilchrist b Warne 7
31 min, 21 balls, 1 four
M S Panesar run out 0
C M W Read c Ponting b Lee 4
S I Mahmood b McGrath 4
S J Harmison not out 16
J M Anderson c Hussey b McGrath 5
Extras: b2 lb3 w1 nb3 9
Total (58 overs) 147
Fall: 1-5 2-55 3-64 4-98 5-113 6-114 7-114 8-122 9-123 10-147.
Bowling: Lee 14-5-39-3 (nb-1 w-1), McGrath 21-11-38-3 (nb-1); Clark 12-4-29-2 (nb-1); Warne 6-1-23-1; Symonds 5-2-13-0.
Australia second innings
J L Langer not out 20
M L Hayden not out 23
Extras (lb-3) 3
Total (for no wickets, 10.5 overs) 46
Did not bat: R Ponting, M Hussey, M J Clarke, A Symonds, A C Gilchrist, S.Warne, B Lee, S R Clark, G D McGrath
Bowling: Anderson 4-0-12-0, Harmison 5-1-13-0, Mahmood 1.5-0-18-0
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and B F Bowden (NZ).
Match referee: R S Madugalle (S Lanka).
TV replay umpire: P D Parker.
Result: Australia won by 10 wickets
Man of the match: Stuart Clark (Australia)
Series result: Australia won 5-0
Player of the series: R Ponting (Australia)Reuse content