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January 6, 2007
It's mission accomplished for the Australians after their 5-0 Ashes victory, which was the first since 1920-21. Ricky Ponting led the side superbly and sits atop the marking sheet ahead of a stream of strong performers
Ponting had most to lose from the series but he turned it into the defining moment of his three-year reign. Once again his batting was untouchable - his 576 at 82.28 included 196 to set the scene in Brisbane and 142 to resurrect the team at Adelaide - and he is undoubtedly the game's greatest current batsman. Importantly, his captaincy was also brutally effective as he benefited from the meticulous research since the 2005 defeat. The Man of the Series was an easy choice.
Somehow Hussey continues to maintain his astronomical numbers. He failed at the MCG with 6, but his next lowest score was 37 in Sydney and he collected four half-centuries and a 103 on his home ground, finishing with 458 at 91.60. His best performance came in the first innings at the WACA when his unbeaten 74 - it doubled the next best score - steered Australia to a competitive total. It was an incredible debut Ashes series.
An amazing return for a bowler who has played only nine Tests. He didn't earn a five-wicket haul, but his ability to find victims early in his spell was inspiring. Bounce, seam and occasional swing were his weapons as he picked up a series-high 26 dismissals at 17.03. Australia's fears about missing Glenn McGrath were eased by his New South Wales team-mate. His swing-happy batting at No. 10 was also entertaining.
Warne's final series was harder work than he'd hoped, especially in the first three Tests when he went for 100 in each match. However, he reopened a new set of wounds for England's batsmen when he started the terminal collapse at Adelaide and waved goodbye in typical style with 5 for 39 on the first day at his MCG home. His body ached for all of his 23 victims and he decided it was time to retire shortly after bowling Monty Panesar to regain the Ashes in Perth.
Like Warne, McGrath signed off in style. His 21 wickets came at 23.90 and the opening-Test burst of 6 for 50 showed he had recovered from his self-enforced layoff to care for his wife. The line remained impeccable, the batsmen continued to freeze and he made sure of a quick kill on the final day at Sydney, taking the final wicket to set Australia a chase of 46. It was a fitting end for a man who carried Australia's fast-bowling attack for the past decade.
A standby at the start, Clarke ended the series as an essential member of a changing team. The 124 at Adelaide was his most assured performance in two years and he quickly proved he had matured with the least talked about century in Perth. His unbeaten 135 was a superb innings that was overshadowed by Adam Gilchrist's fireworks. He's back.
He didn't find his full fluency, but still had a productive series, taking 413 runs at 51.62. The most important contribution was his 153 at the MCG, where he partnered Andrew Symonds in the first-innings rescue, but he was slow to get going and didn't reach his first half-century until his second bat at Perth. His importance to the side will continue following the retirement of his great friend Justin Langer.
It was a hit hard or miss badly series with the bat for Gilchrist. In six innings he failed three times with two ducks and a 1, but when he got going he was a modern-day master blaster. He missed equalling Viv Richards' 56-delivery hundred by one ball in Perth and picked up two important half-centuries. He had a bad first day in Melbourne, where he dropped a tough catch and missed an easy stumping, but was fine everywhere else and captured 26 dismissals, including nine in the final game.
Saved his series with 12 wickets in the final two Tests but still hasn't found the secret of bowling against England (he has 62 wickets at 40 61 in 18 games). Between Adelaide and Melbourne whispers were starting about whether he would be replaced by Mitchell Johnson and he was overshadowed by McGrath and Clark throughout the series. He rightly kept his place and earned 20 victims at 33.20.
It wasn't Langer's best series and he was overwhelmed by emotion in his final game. However, he was there when the winnings runs were scored for the 5-0 victory and ensured a frenetic start to the contest with 82 in Brisbane, which he followed with his 23rd Test century in the second innings. His 303 runs were important but will not be the most memorable of his fine career.
When asked during the SCG celebrations what his series turning point was Andrew Symonds simply said "Melbourne". Until then he was a Test imposter, but with his 156 he showed he could replicate his one-day performances and be the exciting batting allrounder Australia hoped for. Matthew Hayden was Symonds' guide in the 279-run stand that shoved the side from trouble and set up an innings victory. Another sensible 48 at Sydney confirmed his form and his two wickets at Perth added to his allure.
Not much went right for Damien Martyn in his final two Tests and he bravely decided it was time to go after the win in Adelaide. He went into hiding until the end of the year and his 45 runs in the opening two games were also largely anonymous. It was a strangely swift end for a superb player.
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