Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne say their farewells
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Australia surfed a tide of emotion in front of a packed fourth-and-final day crowd, sealing their first Ashes whitewash in 86 years with a ruthless demolition job at Sydney. They had a full two days available to do the necessary, but in the end they needed just under two hours, as England's battered and bruised cricketers surrendered by ten wickets in an abject and embarrassing fashion.
Fittingly, it was Glenn McGrath who took centre stage in his final appearance at his home ground, the SCG. After Shane Warne's heroics with the bat, McGrath took over with the ball, grabbing 3 for 38 in 21 typically metronomic overs, before Justin Langer - in partnership with his best mate, Matthew Hayden - rattled off the necessary 46 runs in just 11 overs.
It was Hayden who sealed the win, clubbing Sajid Mahmood for six then, after a consultation with Langer, slapping the next for four past point, but McGrath, Langer and Shane Warne were the inevitable stars of the show. McGrath, ever one to rise above the emotion, started the festivities with his third ball of the day. He scalped Kevin Pietersen, England's last hope, before instigating the run-out of the nightwatchman, Monty Panesar.
In his desperation to score England's first runs of the morning, Chris Read took off for a suicidal single to Australia's best fielder, Andrew Symonds, who pinged the top of middle stump from ten yards, with Panesar still a foot short. Read was himself then blasted from the crease by a Brett Lee lifter deflected to second slip, before McGrath bowled Sajid Mahmood off the pads for 4.
Warne, to a raucous ovation, then entered at the Paddington End for his final spell in Test cricket, and the last rites of England's innings developed into a mini-tussle between Australia's two champions, as McGrath and Warne fought for the honour of claiming the last wicket of the innings, and of their Test careers.
Warne so nearly won the race via a stumping, as Adam Gilchrist whipped off the bails with Steve Harmison's back foot shuffling back towards the crease, and the drama was intensified by a five-minute wait for the not-out verdict, as umpire Peter Parker studied the replay from all angles. And in the next over, the dream conclusion was narrowly missed, as James Anderson edged McGrath inches short of Warne at first slip.
Harmison did at least club a clutch of defiant boundaries to carry England to the drinks break, but upon the resumption, McGrath could be denied no longer. Anderson swished at the sixth ball of his next over, and Michael Hussey at midwicket pocketed the simplest of catches. McGrath had signed off with three wickets in the innings, six for the match, 21 for the series, and 563 for a magnificent 124-Test career. And Australia needed just 46 to win.
They started watchfully, adding just ten runs in the first five overs, but there were no alarms as a dispirited England team went through the motions to the strains of "The Last Post" from the Barmy Army bugler. The scenes at the end were euphoric and poignant, with Warne, McGrath and Langer leading the lap of honour, as a mighty era of Australia cricket ended in the most immensely fitting manner imaginable.
Dismissal of the day
Kevin Pietersen was England's only hope for a miracle, but Glenn McGrath
snuffed that dream by catching his edge with the third ball of the morning.
It was vintage McGrath and a fitting farewell.
Man of the Match
Stuart Clark's five wickets for the game earned the prize, which was a fine
reward for a series in which he chipped in with at least a victim in every
innings. He finished with 26 at 17.03, a total he achieved without a
Speech of the day
There was a fair bit of competition, but Clark wins easily for telling his
wife and young son how much he loved them in front an almost-full SCG.
Tunes of the day
The trumpeter showed his full repertoire today, mixing pop, rock and
patriotism. The Way We Were was on the song sheet along with Oasis'
Don't Look Back in Anger, Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer, Rule
Brittania and The Last Post.
What England didn't need to hear
"It was the best Harmy's bowled all series," Justin Langer said after
Australia had knocked off the 46 for the series whitewash. England had been
waiting for Steve Harmison to turn up since they arrived in November.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo