ENGLAND put up a brave fight in the morning session of day five but its batsmen only delayed the inevitable as Australia won the fifth Test by an innings and 123 runs to wrap up a 4-0 Ashes triumph.

Steve Smith and Co. celebrated in the middle of the SCG while the visitors were left lamenting how their tour went so wrong.

The Poms were bundled out for 180 on the final day of the series. Joe Root batted on bravely after spending time in hospital with a viral gastroenteritis bug before retiring at lunch on 58 as only he and Jonny Bairstow (38) showed any resistance in the second dig.

But when Jimmy Anderson was given out caught behind off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood for two England's humiliation was complete.

Here are the major talking points from the series.

AUSSIE BOWLERS SOAR AS LYON MAKES HISTORY

 

Alastair Cook has won only three of 20 Ashes Tests in Australia.
Alastair Cook has won only three of 20 Ashes Tests in Australia.

All four of Australia's specialist bowlers (excluding Jackson Bird who played one Test in Melbourne when he replaced the injured Mitchell Starc) took at least 20 wickets each this series, making it just the third time in Test history that's happened.

All the hype leading up to the Ashes surrounded the Aussies' explosive pace attack but Nathan Lyon can lay claim to being the bowler of the summer, exceeding expectations once again to continue his career-best form over the past 12 months.

He took 21 wickets for the series and bowled with beautiful shape. He was always threatening and even if he wasn't picking up scalps he was tying down an end.

Moeen Ali will be having nightmares about the GOAT (greatest of all time) after the Aussie off-spinner dismissed him seven times in nine innings this summer, equalling the mark for the most dismissals of a batsman by one bowler in a series. It's the third time in history a bowler has got the better of one batsman seven times in a five-Test series, and the first such instance in nearly 60 years.

Lyon's seven dismissals equal Glenn McGrath's haul against Michael Atherton in the 1997 Ashes and Geoff Lawson's dominance of David Gower in 1989.

 

Before the series Lyon said he wanted to end some Poms' careers and Joe Root sledged him back by saying no one even knew he was the No. 1 spinner when the pair played club cricket at Prospect in South Australia together, suggesting his own part-time offies were just as good. But that sledge came back to haunt the England skipper as Lyon spun a web around his teammates all summer long.

Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann said England was kidding itself if it thought it was well equipped to handle quality spin bowling.

"The one thing I would like to see is a lot more honesty in English cricket about how good we actually are in Australia, in India and things like that because I played for years and I know that England are very poor players of spin and we're seeing it in this Ashes," Swann told BT Sport in Sydney.

"But if you talk to the England batsmen they're pretty convinced they're good players of spin.

"They'll be convinced they're good players of pace bowling as well but I don't really think they are, so I think a bit of honesty needs to come out first and that's how you improve."

Whereas England's quicks struggled for breakthroughs when the ball wasn't swinging, Australia's pacemen had no such problem as Starc (22 wickets), Pat Cummins (23 wickets) and Josh Hazlewood (21 wickets) confirmed their status as members of the most ruthless pace battery in world cricket.

 

SLEDGE BACKFIRES IN WAKE OF ASHES INSANITY

England admitted No. 3 James Vince is on the chopping block and changes beckon following a disastrous tour.

Vince averaged 26.88 and did nothing of note outside of his 83 in the first innings in Brisbane. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result - and that's been the story of Vince's tour.

He's been caught by the wicketkeeper or in the slips cordon six times in nine innings this summer. Too often he's edged wide balls he didn't need to play at after flashing outside off stump.

The most disappointing aspect of his tour has been how he's thrown away promising starts, scoring: 83, 2, 2, 15, 25, 55, 17, 25 and 18.

"I'm sorry to be boring but he's shown some decent starts, he's shown some glimpses and we all think, 'Crikey, this could be the innings,'" Poms assistant coach Paul Farbrace said.

"But there's got to come a time when, 'This could be the innings' has to stop and it's got to be hundreds."

English legend Geoffrey Boycott told BT Sport Vince is "the perfect example of a horror story" while fellow former Test stars Michael Vaughan and Allan Lamb were equally as critical.

"Something in the mind - particularly of James Vince - doesn't work," Vaughan told BT Sport.

"He needs to have a look at himself ... He goes forward with balance and he goes onto the back foot with balance then he gets to 20-25 and you can just see it (pressure) building up.

"You bowl into channel (outside off stump) and that big drive or that big flash will come and you're ready to take him in the slips."

Vaughan also questioned how long England selectors could stick with Vince in light of the "atrocious" shots he's played Down Under.

 

Vince has been left with egg on his face after his overconfident response to Matthew Hayden's pre-series claim he didn't "even know who half of these guys are" when speaking about England's squad.

Vince hit back at Hayden with a sledge of his own after his 83 and opener Mark Stoneman's 53 in the same innings in Brisbane, saying: "If he didn't know who we were at the start of the day, he probably does now."

Vince - and Stoneman - have failed to walk the walk since then. Stoneman averaged 25.8 for the tour, suffering the same curse as Vince by failing to capitalise on numerous starts.

Dawid Malan was another unheralded name but left Australia with his reputation enhanced, scoring a gritty century in Perth and three half centuries to show he's made of the right stuff to succeed at Test cricket.

 

 

SMITH VS ROOT

When Joe Root walked out to bat on the final day at the SCG after spending time in hospital with a viral gastroenteritis bug, you had to feel sorry for him.

A disastrous first Ashes series as captain somehow got even worse and he put himself through more pain by returning to the crease even though his side had almost no chance of avoiding defeat.

With the bat, he was disappointing. He scored five half centuries but failed to turn any of them into tons as critics made plenty of noise about his poor conversion rate compared to the best batsmen in the world.

In the field Root tried absolutely everything but couldn't find a way to stop counterpart Steve Smith scoring runs at will. He stacked the off side, stacked the leg side and asked his quicks to unleash bouncer barrages. Jimmy Anderson bowling inswingers from around the wicket in Adelaide and bowling wide outside off stump from the same angle in Sydney were two of the more innovative tactics we've seen to try and stop the Aussie run machine.

But it was all in vain and Smith's success only rubbed Root's nose in his own shortcomings. The Aussie skipper piled on two centuries and a double hundred to go with two half centuries as he racked up 687 runs across seven digs.

Former Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was in awe of what his successor achieved this series.

"Not only the way he's batted but the way he's captained the team has been outstanding," Clarke told Channel Nine in Sydney. "He has stood up in this series.

"He's continued his form all the way through this series the way he's used Nathan Lyon has been outstanding. I think the way he got the most out of his quicks has been superb. He has had an unbelievable series."

 

AUSSIE FANS EAT HUMBLE PIE

Many Australian cricket fans will be forced to eat a large slice of humble pie now the Ashes are over.

The selectors had the nation questioning their sanity when they cut Matthew Renshaw, ignored Peter Nevill and Matthew Wade in favour of Tim Paine and recalled veteran Shaun Marsh for his eighth reincarnation wearing the baggy green.

Then they went and dropped Peter Handscomb - a man averaging nearly 50 in Test cricket - after two Tests and replaced him with Mitch Marsh, who at one stage during last year's tour of India boasted the worst record by a No. 6 Test batsman in history.

But everything the selectors touched turned to gold.

Paine's last Test before this series came in 2010, his sole first class hundred was in 2006, he wasn't in Tasmania's first XI to start the Sheffield Shield season and he'd averaged less than 17 in his previous three Shield seasons combined - but he looked right at home wearing the gloves for Australia this summer.

Apart from a tough dropped chance off Nathan Lyon in Brisbane he was largely faultless behind the stumps and made handy contributions with the bat. A valuable 57 in Adelaide was followed up with unbeaten innings of 49 in Perth and 38 in Sydney as he showed the class the selectors knew he possessed.

Shaun Marsh crafted a matchwinning century (126 not out) in the toughest batting conditions of the series in Adelaide and tonned up again in Sydney, scoring 156. Those innings - combined with half centuries in Brisbane and Melbourne - mean he'll be on the plane to South Africa later this year.

His brother Mitch justified his mid-series recall with a scintillating 181 in Perth, a mature 29 not out to save the game in Melbourne and 101 in Sydney.

Opener Cameron Bancroft - who took Renshaw's place - remains the only question mark, enduring a tough introduction to international cricket after looking the goods when he scored 82 not out in the second innings in Brisbane. He made plenty of starts, averaging over 25, and showed enough to suggest he has a future in the baggy green, but will be lamenting the lack of any big scores.

 

HARSH LESSONS ENGLAND MUST HEED

The more things change the more they stay the same.

England appears to have learnt nothing four years on from its 5-0 humiliation in the 2013/14 Ashes series Down Under as only a draw in Melbourne spared it the embarrassment of suffering the same result this time around.

Alastair Cook, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow are the only members from the 2014 SCG Test who were in action in Sydney in 2018 but despite the fresh faces, the result was all too similar.

England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said during the final Test planning for the side's next tour to Australia must start now, but 2005 Ashes winning captain Michael Vaughan questioned why such little thought was put into how the Poms would approach this series.

Much talk throughout the summer centred on England's lack of pace in its bowling unit compared to the Aussie quicks who regularly hit the 140km/h mark. Jimmy Anderson was lionhearted and accurate throughout the tour but he and Stuart Broad lacked penetration on more batsmen-friendly tracks than what they're used to back home.

Playing as the sole spinner in the first four Tests before leggie Mason Crane came into the side in Sydney, Moeen Ali was ineffective, taking just five wickets for the series.

Vaughan said more thought needs to go into what type of players will have success in foreign conditions if England wants to challenge teams away from home.

"Why didn't it (planning) start four years ago? England lost 5-0. They've arrived here with no pace, they've arrived here with no out-and-out spinner," Vaughan told BT Sport. "No surprise that they get beaten once again.

"Let's see what happens over the next year or two years. Will they take that kind of thought into fruition and start preparing really good Test match wickets? That's the only way they'll get faster bowlers, they'll get an out-and-out spinner if they do that.

"It's going to take a lot of work to be able to be really competitive overseas."

It was high fives all around for the men recalled to Australia’s Test team.
It was high fives all around for the men recalled to Australia’s Test team.
The GOAT keeps getting better.
The GOAT keeps getting better.
Joe Root couldn’t contain Steve Smith.
Joe Root couldn’t contain Steve Smith.
James Vince keeps making the same mistake.
James Vince keeps making the same mistake.

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