Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

England Aussie-washed

Australia hammered England by 10 wickets in the final Test to complete a 5-0 Ashes series clean sweep for the first time in 86 years at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

The Australians were left with the comfortable task of scoring just 46 runs to wrap up victory after they dismissed the beleaguered tourists for just 147 little more than an hour into the fourth day.

Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, playing in their last Test together as Australia's most prolific-scoring opening pair, reached the target just before lunch to wrap up a conclusive victory in a one-sided series.

Langer, playing in his 105th and final Test, was not out 20, with Hayden on 23.

It was the perfect send-off for Australia's three retiring cricket greats, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Langer.

McGrath claimed three fourth-day wickets to finish with 3-38 and took a wicket off his last ball in Test cricket, while Warne left with the distinction of topscoring in Australia's first innings with 71, to go with his two wickets in the match.

All three, who played a combined 374 Tests, received rapturous applause from the capacity SCG crowd to signal the end of a golden era for Australian cricket.

Warne finished his incomparable 145-Test career with 708 wickets, the most in Test cricket, and McGrath ended his 124 Tests with 563 wickets, the most by a fast bowler.

They clocked up 1,001 wickets between them in the 104 Tests they played together.

"To win 5-0 is a fantastic achievement by this group of guys. This team's played some sensational cricket through the whole summer," Warne said.

"England have played some good cricket at times too, but when the big moments have come the Australian team's stood up."

Captain Ricky Ponting was thrilled to send the three legends out as winners but admitted he was emotional.

"It's not so much the end result of the 5-0 series win, probably just the occasion with the three guys finishing up. I admit I shed a tear out on the ground," he said.

"For me to look over the last six-seven weeks, it's probably one of the best little periods of my cricketing life."

Any remote hopes England had of setting Australia a teasing target in the final Test fell away after a cataclysmic start to the fourth day.

The team's remaining batting hope, Kevin Pietersen, was out to the third ball of the day when he was caught behind off McGrath on his overnight score of 29.

And nightwatchman Monty Panesar was run out four overs later after attempting England's first run of the day. It was all downhill from there.

"We came up against a side that's been fantastic throughout," England captain Andrew Flintoff said.

"Australia hit us hard in the first game and in patches we've competed with them and played some good cricket but every time we've tried to put our foot in the door it's been closed in front of us.

"They've raised the bar in this series. They've been awesome all-round. The batting, the bowlers have bowled as a unit, they've made it really tough for us."

Ponting put Australia's overwhelming series performance into context when he said: "If England are the No.2 side it shows how far ahead we are of the rest of the pack.

"For a team that, when they landed here, lots of so-called experts tipped them to win the series, and for us to whitewash, it just goes to show just how well we played."

It was Australia's 12th consecutive Test win and their 16th from the last 17 Test matches.

All In A Frame: Retiring Australian cricketers Shane Warne (L), Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer alonwith coach John Buchanan (2nd from L) celebrate after completing a 5-0 clean sweep of England after their 10-wicket win in the final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. PHOTO: AFP