Men's Ashes 2021-22
Seamers shine as Australia seal 4-0 Ashes triumph
Australia closed out a dominant summer by taking the final 10 England wickets for just 56 runs as Pat Cummins’ men seal a 4-0 Ashes win on home soil
16 January 2022, 11:59 PM AEST
While Australia's 4-0 demolition of England would hardly raise an eyebrow given the respective teams' efforts throughout the Vodafone Ashes Series, the manner in which the final win was achieved would likely be cause for a stewards' inquiry in other fields of sporting endeavour.
After knocking over Australia for 155 to set themselves a realistic chase of 271 for a consolation final Test win, England folded from 0-68 a ball prior to tea to 124 all out just 22.4 overs later.
Even allowing for the difficulties batters faced throughout Hobart's maiden Ashes match, a challenge exacerbated when the grassy pitch met the after-dark session, it's difficult to explain the speed at which the tourists unravelled in the face of some relentless seam bowling.
Another 17-wicket day – just the third of such carnage in Tests played in Australia over the past 25 years, and the second since yesterday – saw Australia complete such a clinical win that record-breaking off-spinner Nathan Lyon wasn't required to bowl a ball during the match.
It's now three completed Ashes ventures to Australia that England have failed to win a Test, and while the 146-run loss they suffered half an hour before stumps on day three at Hobart might not statistically be their worst, it represents a low point of their recent efforts.
It also underscored the utter mastery of Australia's bowlers with wickets shared between skipper Pat Cummins (3-42), Scott Boland (3-18), Cameron Green (3-21) and Mitchell Starc (1-30).
So dominant have been pace bowlers across the past two days when 34 wickets tumbled for 529 runs, batters have been scarcely able to make regular contact with the seaming ball.
As a result, appeals came faster and more furiously than those from a top-ranked tennis player and third umpire Paul Reiffel found himself the most influential off-field sports arbitrator since Australia's Federal Court.
So overworked was the technology that at one point – when Australia queried an lbw call made in favour of England opener Zac Crawley – the real-time snickometer function was declared unavailable, possibly due to fatigue.
After being bowled out for 67 in Melbourne, England just lost 10-56 #Ashes— Adam Burnett (@AdamBurnett09) January 16, 2022
But as Cummins had predicted at the end of day two, it was the vagaries of playing Test cricket at night that proved decisive.
As if to confirm the mystical effect floodlights conjure with a pink cricket ball, Australia rarely looked like making a breakthrough as England's openers made fluent progress in the dusk to reach 0-68 from the first 16 overs of their pursuit.
Then, in the final over before the 7.40pm tea break with the artificial illumination in full glow, Cameron Green hurried Rory Burns into a false stroke that rebounded on to his stumps to herald the start of the most damaging bowling spell of the young allrounder's career.
After the break, Dawid Malan went to the crease bristling with intent until Green sconed the left-hander with a searing bouncer that crashed into his batting helmet above the right ear and which immediately saw his footwork rendered inoperative.
It was scarcely a surprise, therefore, that he suffered the same fate as Burns in Green's next over and in the over after that, Crawley's strength was also exposed as a weakness when his desire to drive down the ground yielded an edge.
At that stage, Green boasted the remarkable figures of 3-17 from 26 deliveries and the decision by Ben Stokes to counter-punch brought another breakthrough when he miscued a pull shot that was snaffled by specialist fielder Lyon scooting in from the deep square-leg boundary.
And as if Joe Root needed a final indignity heaped upon a lamentable campaign, he copped a ball from Boland that behaved like no other before or after as it skidded off a crack and underneath the new bat Root had called for two balls earlier and smashed into off-stump.
It's to the England skipper's credit that he simply threw back his head and smiled at the cruelty, rather than hurl the new blade that had not made contact with the ball during its brief stay in the middle such was his innate frustration at another capitulation by his team.
England had lost 5-33 in less than 15 overs under the electronic glare, and it was a symbolically insipid end to their tour that the final five wickets then tumbled for the addition of 23 runs in barely seven overs as the visitors were effectively bowled out inside a session.
The batting failure also overshadowed what should have been a celebration of Mark Wood's triumphant bowling earlier in the day, when the combative right-hander had Australia's batters on the hop for the only time in the series.
Wood's 6-37 was the best Test innings return by a visiting bowler in Australia since Jasprit Bumrah's 6-33 for India at the MCG last summer, and the best by an England bowler in an away Ashes contest since Matthew Hoggard's 7-109 in his team's famous lost cause at Adelaide in 2006.
His energy and hostility, as he targeted the upper bodies of his opponents in much the same way as New Zealand's Neil Wagner only at a much greater velocity, saw Australia knocked over for their lowest score of the summer (155) and fleetingly raised the prospect of an England win.
Of course, that proved just as illusory as the visitors' series-high opening stand of 68 was a false dawn and their chase for 271 ended just before 10pm local time.
England's pursuit of a consolation win might have been made considerably more straightforward had they not come off second-best in repeated encounters with third umpire Reiffel during today's opening session.
Alex Carey, who has not enjoyed a great deal of good fortune in recent outings with the bat, was the beneficiary in two of the three decisions that initially landed in England's favour but were subsequently overturned upon closer examination.
The first was perhaps the most contentious, and certainly the most effectual.
Having reached 19, and been involved in a vital 29-run seventh-wicket stand with Green that had stretched Australia's lead beyond 200, Carey looked to muscle a short ball from Chris Woakes through mid-wicket only to bottom-edge it into his off-stump.
Clearly annoyed with his faulty execution, Carey rehearsed the stroke as he departed Blundstone Arena only to be halted by the crowd's exuberant response to a replay shown on the large video screen.
The footage suggested Woakes' front foot was perilously close to being wholly over the popping crease and – given the job of calling front-foot no-balls no longer resides with on-field umpires when technology is operational – the final verdict was Reiffel's.
After the former Australia seamer scrutinised vision seemingly shot from every angle except conclusive before ruling – not overruling, as many were quick to suggest – it was not a fair delivery and Carey returned to the fray.
He and Green added 20 before Stuart Broad nipped one past the all-rounder's outside edge and into his back pad, although on-field umpire Paul Wilson seemingly felt Green had been struck outside off stump and rejected Broad's celebration that eventually morphed into an appeal.
England then opted to enlist Reiffel's investigative skills and had their faith in the system momentarily restored when it confirmed Broad's unswerving belief he had Green's wicket.
But it was shattered in Broad's next over when the veteran quick was equally adamant he had pinned Carey in front of his stumps and umpire Wilson agreed, only for the Australia keeper to head to the tribunal on what initially appeared fairly flimsy evidence.
However, the left-hander's instincts were proved spot-on when ball-tracking technology revealed Broad had pitched about as far outside leg stump as Woakes had overstepped which meant another reprieve for Carey and an even more aggrieved England.
Prior to the final Test starting, Cummins conceded Carey "got an unlucky one" in the preceding match when he was sent to the middle with a declaration looming and fell for a first-ball duck at which point his skipper immediately called the innings closed.
Today karma seemed set to deliver Carey his second half-century of his maiden Test series until, with Cummins watching on from the non-striker's end, he flashed a drive at wide yorker-length ball from Broad and another inside edge settled in rival rookie keeper Sam Billings' gloves.
Australia's innings ended an over later when Cummins tried to belt Wood over the David Boon Stand, in which the celebrated figure was ensconced alongside Reiffel in his role as match referee, and the target was set at 271 from almost as many overs remaining in the Test.
The Ashes holders might have felt that was sufficient given the difficulties both teams have experienced against the new ball in this match, and England have endured from the very first delivery of the series.
And batting was clearly problematic after the sheen was gone and the pink ball started to go soft.
Having been reduced to 3-37 at stumps on Saturday night, Australia fared no better upon resumption in daylight the next afternoon when Wood's short-pitched strategy exposed frailties in their rivals' top-order.
Mark Wood has absolutely bowled his guts out in this Test. England's best performance of this series #Ashes— Louis Cameron (@LouisDBCameron) January 16, 2022
After nightwatchman Boland edged behind trying to fend a ball angled into his chest, Travis Head's discomfort against the 'bodyline' tactics that were hardly employed during his first-innings century were painfully apparent and saw him dismissed in predictable fashion, fending off his hip.
Then, when Steve Smith holed out to the lone fielder behind square leg having done well to get bat on a bouncer from Wood flying high above his head, Australia had crashed to 6-63 and in unchartered territory with England suddenly eyeing an Ashes loss on their own patch.
As has been the case since 2011, it proved a mirage.
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Sam Billings, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: Match drawn
Fifth Test: Australia won by 146 runs