Fair play to you England, you were far too good

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    England celebrate as Australia's Xavier Doherty is bowled by England's Graeme Swann. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    England celebrate as Australia's Xavier Doherty is bowled by England's Graeme Swann. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    England have won the fifth and final Ashes Test here in Sydney by an innings and 83 runs, and in doing so have lifted the Urn with a thumping 3-1 series win.

    From the moment England declared in Brisbane at 1/517, the writing was on the wall for what Australia were in for, and when Kevin Pietersen brought up his well-over-celebrated double hundred in Adelaide, England had a top four that looked as rock solid as the Beatles before Yoko.

    England’s top seven scored nine centuries to Mike Hussey’s two and Brad Haddin’s Hussey-supporting one in Brisbane, but even more damning is that England’s top four contributed seven centuries, including Cook and Pietersen’s doubles, to none from their Australian counterparts.

    Alastair Cook’s 766 takes care of most, if not all, the modest-returning Australian batsmen used. Steven Smith’s fighting second innings 54 not out here in the second dig may push the aggregate of himself, Michael Clarke, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Simon Katich and Marcus North beyond that of Cook’s massive return, but essentially, we can conclude that one Cook equals seven struggling Australians in this series.

    But this isn’t the time for Australian post-mortems, for to do so now would be to wash over this magnificent English performance.

    I had said at the conclusion of Melbourne that a 2-2 series result would have been a travesty, a non-refection of England’s dominance. 3-1, as it turns out, still doesn’t reflect it accurately either, for this has been nothing short of annihilation.

    The Sydney win becomes the first time in Ashes history that England have inflicted three innings defeats on their old rivals. Ever. Never before in 130 years.

    The draw in Brisbane turned out to be the calm before the storm. Andrew Strauss being bowled in the first over of the series nothing more than an oasis in the desert of Australian hopes for the series.

    When Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn had reduced Australia to 5/143, the England pace-train had left the station. The question marks over Anderson and Stuart Broad regarding their effectiveness in Australian conditions were already diminishing.

    Finn, the young guy the English press were quick to label “the next Glenn McGrath” (which isn’t even their label to apply) proved to be as good as the hype built him up to be, even if he was a touch expensive.

    But the real sticking point, that immovable rock, quickly became the top order. Australia were on top by the end of Day 3, and things were looking very, very up.

    1d/517, followed up in Adelaide with 5d/620, quickly put paid to that. What small advantage Australia thought they’d established in Brisbane had evaporated less than a week later, and sure as night follows day, Australia were right up against it just ten days into the series.

    England headed to Perth having lost only 16 wickets for the series, while also having scored a full 260 runs more than Australia had in the same time, but with one less innings required.

    And if Australia wasn’t copping enough of a beating on the field, off the field it was surely no contest. The final days at both the ‘Gabba and the Adelaide Oval (as did the MCG and SCG, as it turned out) were turned into virtual England home grounds as the Barmy Army set down their camps like squatters in disused warehouses.

    Perth, of course would prove to be a mere blip on their Ashes radar, a week where the Poms very nicely allowed Australia the nation, if not just the team, to allow us to believe that this Ashes contest might be even. We naïve and irrational believers were even allowed to dine out on the Perth win for the whole week leading into Christmas (oh, the night out I had with the English media guys!), not knowing that the worst kind of Boxing Day hangover awaited us in Melbourne.

    And there it hit us. Like the worst kind of too-much-ham-and-lollies stomach cramp, the parochial MCG crowd was reduced to silence as quick as you can say “98 all out”. I even had my Dad in tow to share Boxing Day with me, when in hindsight it might have been safer just to give him socks.

    Suddenly, the Ashes were gone. Just as Australia had scrapped and fought to get a hand back on the Urn, it was swatted away like an irritating fly, an annoyance that England had no time for on their way to glory.

    And so the Last Rites would be delivered in Sydney.

    On a pitch were much conjecture remains over whether it’s a bat- or bowl-first wicket (g’day Roarer Brendon), Australia opened proceedings only to quickly find themselves in that horrible recurring dream, the one where they can’t build partnerships and regularly lose wickets at the worst possible time. As if there’s a good time to lose wickets.

    Only an enthusiastically wagging tail would give the Australian scorecard some semblance of respectability. In reply, England played their trump card and served up yet another Cook ton for an entrée, with maiden Ashes hundreds for Bell and Prior as a main. Records were falling like lead balloons at a bad comedy club.

    Come the last day in Sydney, the gates were thrown open, Mother Nature had a bet each way with simultaneous rain and sun before play, and soon enough, Billy Cooper’s rendition of The Last Post gave way to an English party 24 years in the making.

    Urns were lifted, podiums were jumped on and, presumably, a few beers flowed.

    I wouldn’t mind betting the Barmy Army are still partying as you read this, and perhaps a few players as well. As you would.

    Fair play to you England, you were just far too good…

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.