After three successive series defeats in the battle for the urn the Baggy Greens finally got the better of their old enemy, winning the third Test in Perth by 150 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead with two matches to play.
But while Clarke was keen to savour their long-awaited triumph, he warned the tourists can expect no let-up when the series continues in Melbourne and Sydney.
“Our goal is to get back to being the number one team in the world,” said ‘Pup’, who was part of the team that whitewashed England in 2006-07. “No doubt we’ll celebrate hard and enjoy it, we deserve that. But we’ve got two more Test matches. We’d love to win 5-0 in this series.”
After big wins in Brisbane and Adelaide, England put up more of a fight at the WACA and there were likely a few nerves in the Aussie camp on the final day courtesy of a brave century from Ben Stokes (120).
But when spinner Nathan Lyon stepped up to claim his vital wicket after lunch the result was only going one way.
And with all bar one of the side – Clarke – raising the urn for the first time, emotions were running high as the celebrations kicked off.
“It was pretty hard running in to bowl, the emotions were flying,” a teary-eyed Mitchell Johnson, the spearhead of the Aussie attack, said. “I was just trying to keep them in check.
It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“I came back from injury and I had a lot of doubters there and I knew that I did all the hard work and I had the opportunity and I’ve taken it with both hands.”
Clarke, meanwhile, revealed his side took motivation from the criticism they received from former players following their 3-0 defeat in England during the summer.
Former skipper Ian Chappell and ex-paceman Merv Hughes both questioned the Baggy Greens’ ability to compete with the tourists, while Clarke was also involved in a public fall-out with predecessor Ricky Ponting over comments made in Ponting’s autobiography.
“It is hard when you get criticised by past players,” he added. “That inspired us to play good cricket and win games, to shut those people up. Hopefully we have done that.”
ACE OR AWFUL?
Three men who were key to Australia urn-ing back the Ashes.
While there are a number of reasons for the Aussies’ huge form reversal, the addition of the lethal left-armer is undoubtedly the stand-out. Johnson has wound back the clock with a stunning show of pace bowling, which England have had no answer for. After just three Tests he has a staggering 23 wickets at 15.47.
Unlike his England counterpart Matt Prior, the Baggy Greens keeper has been immense, both with the bat and behind the stumps. He’s scored 325 runs at an average of 65 and has one century and three fifties, none more important than his gritty 94 at the Gabba. His glovework has been simply superb.
At last the big-hitting opener, blessed with amazing ability but so often making headlines for the wrong reasons, has come of age. With 457 runs at 91.40 and two terrific tons, Warner put his rocky past behind him and has likely cemented himself at the top of the order for years to come.
…And three PLAYERS IN THE FIRING LINE for England
After a relatively smooth start to his reign, the England skipper faces the toughest test of his career bouncing back from this horror show. Terribly out of form with the bat, Cook has averaged just 25.66 so far. But given the lack of fight shown by his side, it’s his leadership that will come under the most scrutiny.
England’s second leading wicket-taker of all-time has looked a shadow of the man who took 22 Australian wickets in their 3-0 series win in the summer. He’s been bowling without venom, his body language has been poor and it’s no surprise he has just seven wickets at a woeful 58.42.
‘KP’ has often given the Baggy Greens nightmares. But like most of England’s senior players he has failed to fire, making only 165 runs at 27.50 – way below his career average of 47.64. More worrying is the alarming lack of patience he’s shown in key situations which has many experts calling for his head.
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