The sight of Joe Root fighting illness to come out to the middle on the final day of this Magellan Ashes series before, at lunch, being forced to concede he was beaten pretty much summed up England’s campaign.
They did not lack fight, courage or a determination to front up in tough situations. But in the end, like their captain at the SCG, they just weren’t able to overcome an insurmountable opponent.
In terms of Root today, that was a gastro-enteritis bug. For his team, over the course of these five Tests, it was Australia’s greater quality that left them struggling.
Root has conducted himself well over the course of England’s 10 weeks in Australia. As well as Steve Smith’s team, he has had to deal with losing his vice-captain in Ben Stokes, who is still awaiting news on whether he will be charged after his late-night fracas in Bristol back in September, and several off-field disciplinary issues that have overshadowed the cricket.
But his determination to bat at the SCG on the final day of this fifth Test, and in the process score his fifth half-century of the series, showed the tough character he is. That has been reflected by his team over a series which, unusually for the modern era, has seen all five Tests last five days.
Root’s troubles were summed up in stark detail by James Anderson, England’s vice-captain in the absence of Stokes.
“He’s not had any sleep. He’s not eaten. He’s had diarrhoea and he’s been vomiting, so I guess he’s not in great state,” Anderson said.
“To get to the ground was a great effort, and to strap his pads on and bat for as long as he did was a brilliant effort and showed exactly what sort of character he is.
“He wants to lead by example in this team. He’s been a fantastic captain on this tour and it shows what sort of person he is to make that sort of effort to get out on the field.”
This 4-0 series defeat is an improvement on the whitewash of four years ago, when former coach Andy Flower and a raft of players were discarded in the aftermath. There will be no inquest this time, just an acceptance England were beaten by the better team.
“It doesn’t feel like a series where there should be a big upheaval like other series which have been absolutely disastrous,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t feel like that. We’ve actually played good cricket along the way in every game. Every game has gone to the fifth day. We’ve not been blown away in every game.
“It doesn’t feel like a completely disastrous series. We are hurting and we know we’ve got to improve in a lot of areas and I’m sure the management will be thinking the same. I’m sure everyone will be looking at themselves in the mirror over the next few weeks.”
Then there is the prospect of facing this same Australian team back on home soil next year.
The pain from this series defeat will drive England – and Anderson in particular – to reclaim the urn in favourable home conditions.
“The Ashes are only 18 months away in England - we’ve got to start planning for that and getting those Ashes back. It’s a big thing for an English cricketer to play in a series like this and it hurts a lot when you lose this sort of series,” he said.
“You see the delight on the faces of the Australian’s who’ve got just picked up the trophy – we want that feeling back and we want the Ashes back in England. It starts now. We’ve got to be looking ahead to that Ashes in 2019.”
Anderson, England’s record wicket-taker who turns 36 later this year, has done well to take 17 wickets at 27 in this series.
And he is determined to take on Steve Smith’s team in 18 months’ time.
“I’m absolutely determined,” he said.
“I’ve loved bowling in this series. It’s not been my most fruitful in terms of wickets but I’ve given it everything and my body has coped with it; my speeds have been good on the whole.
“I’m hungry to keep playing for England. Obviously, the powers that be will decide on the teams that are going to play in the coming months and years but I’m going to do everything I can be available for that series. I can’t say I’m definitely going to be there.
“But I’m still hungry to play and delighted to get through these five Tests. I’m still as hungry as ever.
“I’ll have a few weeks off. Get ready for New Zealand in March, get my fitness back to 100 per cent. If I get through New Zealand then I’ll move on to the summer and take it a bit at a time. I never like to look too far ahead but I’d really like to be around in 2019.
“It hurts. We came over here desperate to win the Ashes, desperate to compete and obviously three Tests in we’d lost the series.
“We’re bitterly disappointed. I hope that the guys in the dressing room are watching these guys celebrate, and I hope it’s hurting them as much as it is me. Hopefully that will drive them on for the next 18 months.”
Led by Root’s example today, Australia will at least know they will be in a fight when these teams lock horns again. England just need to ensure they add more substance and skill to their obvious character.
2017-18 International Fixtures
Gillette ODI Series v England
Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
England T20 squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21
2017-18 International Results
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard
Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard
Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Match drawn. Scorecard
Fifth Test Australia win by an innings and 123 runs. Scorecard