Inevitable for some time, now finally confirmed: Australia have retained The Ashes.
England have been outplayed throughout and after just 12 days of cricket, find themselves 3-0 down and facing a battle to avoid another series whitewash.
- Australia skittle England for 68 to retain The Ashes
- Scorecard: Australia vs England, third Ashes Test
- Watch The Ashes: Get BT Sport on Sky
Even in a contest as one-sided as this, though, there have been moments where games could have gone either way. Here are some of the crucial incidents that helped Australia keep hold of the urn…
Starc bowls Burns with first ball of the series
Teams are often said to have bossed a series ‘from ball one’ and on this occasion you can take that literally. After a rain-delayed start, England won the toss on a green Brisbane pitch and opted to bat. A bold choice but if they could battle through what would, undoubtedly, be a tricky first hour…
First ball of the series. Mitchell Starc to Rory Burns. After all the usual bluster in the build-up, it was time for the action to begin.
The fast bowler charged in, bowled and went full, at the stumps. Starc’s line was a little off but that was nothing compared to Burns, who got himself in a horrible position and was bowled behind his pads by a leg stump half-volley with some late swing sending the ball clattering into leg stump.
England’s worst fears realised? Not quite, that came when Joe Root departed without scoring five overs later to leave them 11-3, but the tone had been set.
England crumble after Root-Malan stand
Even after being bowled out for 147 and giving up a deficit of 278 on first innings after a sloppy fielding display that saw David Warner given numerous lives on his way to 94, England ended day three of the first Test with hope.
Root and Dawid Malan had put on an unbroken 139 for the third wicket to take the tourists to 220-2, with both batters closing in on hundreds. Another good session to start the fourth day and pressure would really have begun to mount on Australia.
Instead, both Malan and Root departed inside the opening half hour and England promptly folded, losing their last eight wickets for just 74 runs. Whether the away side had been able to go on and win the match is almost irrelevant.
Given the chance to make life difficult for Australia and show the hosts that they would not have it all their own way in the series, England wilted after an early setback. By contrast, Australia showed both their skill with the ball and their fight in responding to a tough couple of sessions to regain their position of power and win the game.
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Labuschagne hits ton after being dropped early
Marnus Labuschagne is the No 1 Test batter in the world. If you get a chance to get rid of him early then, it is important to take it. England’s chance came with the Australia No 3 on 21 on day one of the first Test in Adelaide as he gloved a bouncer from Ben Stokes down the legside.
Jos Buttler had already taken a stunning catch down the legside to remove Marcus Harris earlier in the innings and this one was far more straightforward. However, the England wicketkeeper could not cling on as he flung himself to his left.
Labuschagne survived and progressed to 95 before being dropped again by Buttler, a far simpler chance off Jimmy Anderson. He proceeded to reach his first Ashes hundred and – after being caught off a no-ball – was eventually dismissed for 103 by Ollie Robinson.
By that stage he had shared significant partnerships with Warner and Steve Smith to set Australia on their way to a commanding 473-9 declared in their first innings, leaving England chasing the game once more.
Root pain and Buttler misstep ends rear-guard action
For the second game running, after a tricky start, Malan and Root gave England a strong platform from which to build. Unfortunately, for the second game running, it was wasted as they slumped from 150-2 to 236 all out.
The upshot was being set a highly improbably 468 to win or, slightly more realistically, batting out four and a bit sessions for a draw.
Australia managed to oust the top three but Root and Stokes were still in their battling as day four headed towards its conclusion. The captain had been hit in a rather delicate area before the start of play, gone for scans but was battling through, only to be hit in that very same area by a delivery from Starc.
A lengthy break in play followed but Root battled on and looked set to see out the day, only to be undone by Starc in the final over of a very painful day for the Yorkshireman.
With only six England wickets remaining going into the last day, an Australian victory seemed certain but after losing Ollie Pope early on, the visitors dug in – and none more stubbornly than Buttler.
The wicketkeeper-batter had endured a torrid game with his dropped catches and a first-innings duck and after getting away with an edge between keeper and first slip, he defended stoutly, scoring just nine in the second session, knowing time at the crease was far more valuable to England than runs.
The wicket of Robinson before tea left England with only two wickets remaining going but with Buttler still there, looking increasingly solid and the pink ball getting older, a glimmer of hope remained.
That all ended two overs into the evening session as Buttler, who had been going deep in his crease to good effect, went back again to nudge the ball into the covers and find a single to keep strike. But he went too far. The gentlest of presses against the off stump from his back foot was enough to dislodge the bail, end a defiant 207-ball knock and with it, hopes of a famous England escape.
Aussie quicks dismantle England in frantic final hour
The Boxing Day Test started in sobering fashion for England, bowled out cheaply again and managing just one wicket in 16 overs before stumps.
However, day two was a new day – and it was England’s day. Right up until it wasn’t. Having produced an impressive performance with the ball, restricting Australia to a useful, but not insurmountable, 82-run first-innings lead, the top-order was blown away in the last hour of the day.
England’s batting has understandably come in for plenty of criticism during this series but on the second evening in Melbourne, the Australian fast bowlers produced a barrage that even the strongest of batting line-ups would have struggled to withstand.
The outstanding Pat Cummins must still be wondering how he went wicketless but his relentlessness ramped up the pressure on the batters and galvanised Starc and Scott Boland, who helped themselves to two wickets apiece.
England were shellshocked as they walked off 31-4. The only question remaining was how long they could survive on day three. Not very as it turned out.