Australian great Shane Warne maintained on Wednesday that England had won the Ashes in spite, rather than because, of Alastair Cook’s overly defensive captaincy.
England, who had already retained the Ashes, won the fourth Test at Durham by 74 runs on Monday with more than a day to spare to take an unbeatable 3-0 lead.
The tourists, needing 299 to win, were well placed at 1-120 at tea.
But in an extended final session, Australia collapsed spectacularly to 224 all out, with England fast bowler Stuart Broad, who took 6-20 in 45 balls on his way to Test-best match figures of 11-121.
Warne, writing in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, said Cook had been far too defensive early in Australia’s second innings.
“He had a deep point, would move slips out as soon as there was a good shot through the covers and the bowlers were bowling too short and not full and at the stumps.”
Warne added Cook, who has lost only one Test in 12 as England captain, was too reliant on England coach Andy Flower and the team’s Australian bowling coach David Saker.
“Saker and Flower knew England were losing the Test largely because of the captain’s approach but the tea interval came at the right time for England.”
England offspinner Graeme Swann, the leading wicket-taker in the series with 23, said Cook’s critics were wide of the mark.
“I know there are people saying he is too negative but I stand next to him in the field at second slip and know what goes on in his mind – he is very calculating.
“He is both aggressive and defensive when he needs to be. That makes him an excellent captain.”
Warne’s former Australian teammate Glenn McGrath said there was a hint of the old “Baggy Green mentality” in the England team.
“The Australian team that I was lucky enough to play in had a certain aura and sometimes you had teams beaten before you walked on the field,” McGrath wrote in The Guardian.
“England aren’t at that stage but, after 12 Tests without defeat and five wins in six, they’ve got that confidence, that belief.
“When you’re playing in a good team where you’re confident in yourself and your teammates, when you’ve done the business before, it makes it so much easier.
“The opposite is also true: when you’re used to losing, you somehow keep finding ways to lose.”
The fifth and final Test starts at The Oval next Wednesday.