Australia relinquished the Ashes in less than two and a half days in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, with their horror first-innings showing making it virtually impossible to avoid a defeat so severe captain and all-time great Michael Clarke announced his retirement after its preposterously early conclusion.
Resuming on 4/274 at the start of Day 2 – in response to the tourists’ pathetic 60 all out on the opening morning of the Test – England reached 9/391 before skipper Alistair Cook declared.
Joe Root top-scored with a superb 130, while quick-fire lower-order contributions from Mark Wood (28 from 32 balls), Moeen Ali (38 from 24) and Stuart Broad (24 not out from 29) advanced the hosts’ score in rapid time.
A century opening stand from Chris Rogers (52) and David Warner (64) briefly buoyed Australia’s spirits as they faced up to a 331-run first innings deficit, but the duo fell in consecutive Ben Stokes overs to kick-start another dismal collapse.
Stokes removed Shaun Marsh (2) in his next over, before Broad took the prized wicket of Steve Smith (5) two balls later to leave the embattled Ashes-holders reeling at 4/136.
Clarke’s woeful series with the bat continued when he was dismissed by Mark Wood for 13, while Stokes notched a five-for by claiming Peter Nevill (17) and Mitchell Johnson (5) inside the final five overs before bad light ended play early with Australia on 7/241.
The inevitable innings defeat took just 10.2 overs to complete on Day 3, with Stokes finding Mitchell Starc’s (0) edge to finish with the outstanding figures of 6/36, before Wood rattled the woodwork of Josh Hazlewood (0) and Nathan Lyon (4) in quick succession.
Adam Voges was left on 51 not out as Australia’s score of 253 all out saw England clinch a victory by an innings and 78 runs, taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series.
Clarke made a tearful retirement announcement post-match, declaring he would be stepping down after the fifth and final Test.
Stud of the day
Day 2: After an up-and-down series to date, boom all-rounder Ben Stokes exploded for England with career best figures of 6/36 at an economy rate of 1.71.
Day 3: There wasn’t much time for anyone to assert themselves on Day 3 with only 62 balls bowled, but Wood capped an excellent return to the side for the injured James Anderson after being dropped for the third Test by mopping up the Australian tail.
Stud of the match
Despite a wonderful century by Joe Root and the sensational bowling effort of Stokes in Australia’s second innings, the man-of-the-match award stakes had already been decided on the morning of Day 1 thanks to Stuart Broad’s epic record-breaking performance of 8/15.
Australia entered the series as unbackable favourites, full of swagger and bravado. They will leave Britain as one of the worst Australian sides to tour. Two crushing defeats after their comprehensive Lord’s victory have been as bewildering as they have been embarrassing. Michael Clarke’s stellar career has come to an unbefitting end, while perhaps only Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Johnson can be guaranteed of a start when Australia hosts New Zealand in November.
Much of the groundwork done by Darren Lehmann’s rebuilding squad during last summer’s Test series drubbing of India has been undone; it’s virtually back to square one, and the Black Caps could conceivably go into the upcoming series as favourites. England, meanwhile, has reasserted themselves as one of the preeminent forces on the world cricket stage. What changes Lehmann makes ahead of the dead-rubber fifth Test will be intriguing, but he is almost certain to jettison Shaun Marsh.
-Michael Clarke’s seven Ashes Test losses is the most ever by an Australian captain.
-Clarke’s average of 16.71 was the second-worst by an Australian captain in an Ashes series, after Ricky Ponting’s 16.14 in 2010-11.
-England has now won the last four Ashes series played in England, and five of the last seven series overall.