Australia ruthlessly extinguished England’s resistance to claim an innings victory in the fifth Ashes Test and complete a 4-0 series rout on the final day in Sydney on Monday.
The beleaguered tourists, with skipper Joe Root weakened by a stomach bug and unable to continue batting, dissolved after lunch, losing their last four wickets for their fourth comprehensive defeat of the series.
“It has been a great couple of months. The cricket that we have played in the last couple of months has been outstanding,” Australia skipper Steve Smith said.
“We have just been able to get on top and win those key moments and not let them back in the game which is crucial.”
Pat Cummins led the Australian offensive in Sydney with four wickets for 39 to finish man-of-the-match and the leading wicket taker in the series with 23.
“To get through the five Tests and end the series here at home. I couldn’t asked for much more,” said an ecstatic Cummins.
England finished at 180 for nine off 88.1 overs as Australia won by an innings and 123 runs.
It followed comprehensive losses on the troubled five-Test tour in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The fourth Test was drawn in Melbourne.
Stricken Root did not come out to bat after lunch as he continued to experience discomfort after his overnight stomach bug.
“He is asleep. He has a gastro bug and he has not been too well through the night and the heat yesterday didn’t help. He is asleep in the dressing-room trying to recover,” said vice-captain Jimmy Anderson, deputising for Root at the post-match presentations.
“To be honest we have been outplayed in the key moments of each game,” he added.
“We have been in the games to an extent but just not been able to capitalise on any opportunities. Australia have played great in this series.”
Cummins struck twice in three balls after lunch, trapping Jonny Bairstow leg before wicket for 38 and having Stuart Broad caught behind off a brutish bouncer for four.
Mason Crane got another Cummins bouncer which he gloved to wicketkeeper Tim Paine for two and Anderson was caught behind off Josh Hazlewood for two to end the innings.
Root went to hospital overnight with England Cricket initially saying he had “severe dehydration” after fielding and batting in intense heat on Sunday.
But team officials corrected earlier statements and said Root was instead weakened by the effects of a gastroenteritis bug.
He came out to bat on the dismissal of Moeen Ali for 13 an hour into the final day’s play and reached his fifth half-century of the series, but was unable to convert any of them to a century.
England’s remote chances of saving the Test disappeared when Root failed to appear at the crease after lunch.
Spinner Nathan Lyon claimed Moeen’s wicket for the seventh time in the series when he trapped him leg before in the morning session, which Moeen did not review.
Lyon took three wickets for 54 off 35 overs.
The Australians took a grip on the final Test with a massive 303-run innings lead and then reduced the battle-weary tourists to 93 for four at the close on the fourth day.
All five Tests went into the fifth day.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen appears to have moved closer to retirement after admitting the current Big Bash tournament would be his last.
Pietersen, 38 this year, said last year’s T20 Blast would be his last cricket in England and he has now confirmed he will not be playing in Australia again once the current Big Bash ends.
Now a T20 specialist following the breakdown of his England career, the South Africa-born power-hitter says he cannot improve any more and as such is close to calling time.
“Confirming that this is my last BBL as a player!” Pietersen, who has played for the Melbourne Stars for the last four seasons, wrote on Twitter.
“By the time BBL starts later this yr I cannot see myself wanting to improve or try & get better. That means it’s time to finish! I’ll enjoy playing my last few games at the Adelaide Oval, SCG & MCG!”
Pietersen still has commitments to come in 2018 and the Pakistan and South African T20 competitions, but it may well be that he will not play into 2019.
If it is the end, it will bring to a close a colourful, controversial but successful career which saw him plunder 32 hundreds for England, 23 of which came in Tests where he scored 8,181 runs in 104 outings.
Persistent rain throughout the day at Newlands prevented a ball being bowled on Sunday, halting South Africa’s progress in the opening Test of the three-match series.
The final two days are forecast to be dry as the top two teams in the ICC Test rankings face off.
Faf du Plessis’ men remain stranded at 65-2 with an overall lead of 142 in their second innings with two days to go in the Test.
With 22 wickets falling in the opening two days and a much positive weather forecast for the fourth day, a result still seems highly likely in this thriller of a Test between the world’s two top-ranked sides.
South Africa’s highly touted pace battery decimated the Indian top-order but a fighting counter-attacking knock of 93 by young all-rounder Hardik Pandya on the second day has given Virat Kohli’s men a glimmer of hope in the first Test.
With Proteas pacer Dale Steyn breaking down in his return to Test cricket after over a year out with a shoulder injury, the Proteas attack will be one bowler short when they come out to bowl in the final innings.
Steyn has been ruled out for the rest of the match and faces the prospect of missing the rest of the three-match series in an unfortunate return to international cricket.