CRICKET: Australia may have won the battle in the fifth Test at The Oval but despite finishing ahead in most statistical categories, it most definitely did lose the war.
The reality is that the famous urn, or at least a modern-day replica of it, has been returned to England after a 3-2 series victory, built largely around stunning victories in the third and fourth Tests at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
Australia's batting collapses in those matches were extraordinary, leading to finger-pointing in all directions - the ball, lack of technique, lack of team harmony under captain Michael Clarke ... selection errors.
While England may have taken its foot off the pedal in the final match with the series already decided, Australia, and its batsmen in particular, finally showed some serious resolve to win by an innings and 46 runs.
It was a hollow victory, with England's players wasting little time popping the champagne corks and doing the lap of honour that had seemed most unlikely several weeks earlier.
Clarke, who took the fall for the capitulations at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge by announcing his retirement, said the win at The Oval had certainly not been about him.
"Yes, it's the end of my career, and I'm very fortunate to have played as much as I have for Australia," he said. "But this is not about me.
"I'm really grateful the boys got the result we were all after. We put in a lot of hard work throughout this series. To lose 3-2 is still disappointing but it's a nice way for Chris (Rogers) and myself to finish."
As well as ending the career of those two players, the tour also saw the demise of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, and most likely of all-rounder Shane Watson, certainly from the Test arena.
After playing in the first Test in Cardiff and then stepping aside for the second to spend time with his ill daughter in hospital, selectors decided Haddin's time was up, bringing in fellow New South Welshman Peter Nevill.
Watson was also on the outer after Cardiff, replacing by the up-and-coming Mitchell Marsh who did enough in the series to suggest he would occupy that role for the foreseeable future.
Despite the outcome, there were some positives.
Incoming captain Steve Smith, Rogers and David Warner filled three of the top four positions on the runs scored table - man of the series Joe Root was the other - and while England pacemen Stuart Broad led the wicketakers, Aussies Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Johnson were next.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
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