PERTH, AUSTRALIA - Australia regained the Ashes from England with two matches still to play after a series-clinching win in the third cricket test at the WACA on Monday.
Steve Smith’s ruthless Australians followed up their convincing victories in the first two tests in Brisbane and Adelaide by winning the third by an even more emphatic margin of an innings and 41 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
Needing to bat through the fifth and final day to salvage a draw and keep the series alive, England crumbled to be all out for just 218 after Australia’s fickle weather almost saved it, losing its last six wickets in 34 overs to hand the old urn back to Australia.
“Captaining an Ashes-winning side is an amazing feeling. It’s a moment we’ve been looking forward to, so much has gone into the preparation, the way we’ve gone about it was spectacular,” Smith said at the presentation.
“So many emotions coming out, the boys are going to celebrate hard tonight.
“To win an amazing Ashes series, to be 3-0 up and get that urn back, I’m really proud.”
Monday’s scheduled start of play was delayed by three hours because of heavy overnight rain that leaked through the covers and left some wet patches on the pitch, briefly raising England’s hopes the tourists could hold on for a draw and frustrate Australia’s ruthless pursuit of victory.
But the end came swiftly enough once the ground staff dried the pitch using leaf blowers and the umpires agreed to let play finally recommence after lunch with Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood ripping through England’s middle- and lower-order batsmen.
Hazlewood clean-bowled England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow for 14 with his first delivery of the day then added the key wickets of Dawid Malan (54) and Craig Overton (12) to complete his first five-wicket haul in an Ashes test and finish with the impressive figures of 5-48.
Spinner Nathan Lyon (2-42), who has tormented England throughout the series, removed Moeen Ali for 11 before express paceman Pat Cummins (2-53) dismissed Stuart Broad (no score) and Chris Woakes (22) to seal Australia’s lopsided win just before the rescheduled tea break.
“Very difficult to take but fair play to Australia, they’ve outplayed us in all three games and we’ve got to be better,” England skipper Joe Root said.
“We’ve got to learn from it and get better but there’s good things to come from this week. Those guys putting in big performances under pressure was outstanding.
“We’ve got to make sure we go to Melbourne, prepare well and put in a good performance there.”
England had won four of the last five Ashes series’ against its great cricket rivals but was swept 5-0 on its last visit to Australia four years ago and could face the same gloomy prospect again with back-to-back matches in Melbourne and Sydney still to come.
England was seemingly in a strong position after racing to 368-4 in its first innings but collapsed to be all out for 403 as the Australians seized control and never let up, just as they had in the first two matches.
The home side led by 259 runs after compiling a daunting total of 662-9 on the back of a 301-run partnership from man of the match Smith (239) and recalled all-rounder Mitchell Marsh (181).
“That really set the game up for us, to get us in the lead. I’m just so proud of the boys, the way we’ve been able to wrap things up here in Perth and get that urn back,” Smith said.
“We’re going to celebrate this one first. The Boxing Day test match is an amazing occasion, hopefully we can get ourselves 4-0 and maybe 5-0 in Sydney. Everyone has been fantastic to get us the result we deserve.”