Australia’s unblemished Ashes campaign arrived with muted triumph more so than an incandescent bang although their final winning margin of an innings and 123 runs underscored the widening gulf between the teams.
A Magellan Ashes series in which England was competitive at moments but overwhelmed in the ones that mattered ended at 2.15pm this afternoon amid curious uncertainty.
The final wicket – that of James Anderson who was caught behind from Josh Hazlewood’s first delivery after the middle-of-day drinks break – was disputed by the batter who seemed briefly unaware that England held no more reviews.
And another pause ensued as everyone involved waited to see if England's final batsman, their invalided captain Joe Root, would make it on to the field for a final show of defiance before it became clear he was too unwell to do so.
So incapacitated, in fact, that he was unable to lead the defeated team on to the turf to shake hands with the victors, that role falling to Stuart Broad.
But no amount of debate could detract from the authority of Australia’s win that began in Brisbane more than six weeks ago and was crowned when captain Steve Smith – winner of the Compton-Miller Medal as Player of the Series – accepted the replica of the tiny urn and its crystal counterpart.
In front of 17,174 day-five fans, which meant the series drew the largest aggregate at-ground attendance (more than 867,000) of any Ashes summer in Australia since the Bodyline battle in 1932-33.
Australia were forced to toil through the morning session for the reward of a solitary wicket, but in half an hour after lunch Pat Cummins (player of the match and the series’ leading wicket-taker) snared a triple breakthrough as England lost 3-12 from 6.1 overs to decide the match.
The first time since 1994-95 that all five Ashes Tests have endured into a fifth day.
The final scorecard will show that Root retired rather than succumbed to the bowling (having been flattened by a gastric virus he contracted overnight) to continue his innings of almost four hours that had twice been curtailed on the final day.
Firstly when he was not available to resume at the beginning of play because he was en route to the SCG having spent several hours in hospital being treated for dehydration, and then again after lunch when fatigue compounded the sick feeling in his stomach.
Only some of which was attributable to his team’s winless Ashes tour.
In their end-of-day-four review, Australia would have identified Root as the England batter they most wanted to remove early the following morning to ensure smooth passage to a deserved win.
As events transpired, a stomach bug effectively did that before the Australia bowlers had begun their pre-game limbering when Root phoned England’s medical staff around dawn to report that he was in physical strife.
He was soon at hospital where he was placed on a saline drip and quickly improved as he rehydrated, but after a sleepless night and the trauma he had endured he was in no state to bat for his country until an hour into the day.
His clearly labored walk to the wicket brought about by the dismissal of Moeen Ali, who had taken Root’s place in the centre when play resumed under high cloud cover in conditions less hostile but equally enervating, in circumstances that everyone expected.
For the seventh time in nine completed innings, England’s finger spinner fell victim to his direct opposite and recurring nemesis, Nathan Lyon.
It completed a dominance that has only a couple of equals in Ashes history – ex-England captains David Gower and Mike Atherton each falling seven times in the course of a single series to their respective arch-enemies Geoff Lawson (in 1989) and Glenn McGrath (1997).
Although those strangleholds unfolded over six-Test series, and if another match were appended to this summer it’s highly likely Moeen would hold that unwanted record in his own right.
While Root might have been a kilogram or two lighter than on his previous trips to the centre during this campaign – most of them made with his team in similarly uncertain terrain as today – his hunger for the challenge remained undiminished.
For the fifth time in as many Tests, England’s skipper reached 50 and was only a handful of runs shy of becoming his team’s leading scorer for the series when he went to lunch on 58.
However, the hour that he had spent at the crease prior to the break had drained his limited resources and when England’s innings resumed for the afternoon session, still 159 runs in deficit to Australia, Root remained confined to barracks.
According to the update provided by the team’s media manager, the captain was "feeling exhausted at the lunch break and is resting up in the dressing room".
The events that unfolded in the minutes that followed would hardly have aided his recovery.
Having survived more than three hours for his stoic 38, Bairstow fell to Pat Cummins – who himself had fallen foul of a stomach bug during the preceding Test in Melbourne – when he walked across his stumps to try and negate the pitch’s increasingly variable bounce.
While the ploy had proved successful in negotiating the sharp spin of Lyon, the extra pace of Cummins provided the breakthrough for which the Australians had searched throughout the morning session and England’s last recognised (and fully functioning) batter was pinned in front of leg stump.
After two consecutive innings of brazen defiance, Stuart Broad represented the visitors' final hope of forcing the game into the final hours or possibly even Australia back to the crease if he could carve his way to another half century or more.
But that proved a false hope when his contribution was restricted to two deliveries.
The first of which was unexpectedly of a full length and was squirted between slips and gully for a boundary, followed by the inevitable bouncer that Broad attempted to fend away with his bat only to present Tim Paine with the simplest catch of a record-equalling series.
From that point, and with Root showing no sign of full recovery, the end to a series that had delivered very few alternative storylines came at pace.
Mason Crane’s forgettable maiden Test ended in suitably unexceptional circumstances, caught behind from another Cummins short ball that flicked the batter’s right thumb as it hung off the bat handle as if England’s number 10 was hitching a lift home.
Crane’s decision to call for a review could only have been made in the erroneous assumption that his entire hand and not just the offending digit had lost contact with the bat.
Either that or in hope that, as had been the case when he was robbed of his maiden Test wicket days earlier, the bowler had overstepped.
None of which was confirmed by the DRS process.
Australia XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon #Ashes— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) January 4, 2018
England XI: Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Stuart Broad, Mason Crane, James Anderson #Ashes— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) January 4, 2018
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
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
Gillette ODI Series v England
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
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