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England's fall from grace

Cricket

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England arrived in Australia with a spring in their step, but will lob at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test with their tail between their legs.

Australia needed just three Tests to reclaim the Ashes.

Although a fighting century from Ben Stokes ensured some nervy moments on the final day in Perth, England have been comprehensively outplayed with both bat and ball for the majority of the series.

England’s fielding has also bordered on embarrassing at times.

Stokes is the only England batsman to have scored a century this series.

In a side boasting a glut of experienced players, it was left to a 22-year-old in his second Test to finally take the fight up to Australia.

England’s bowling has been just as bad, with the exception of Stuart Broad.

Last year, England were the No.1 Test nation.

Currently, they’re ranked third.

But on the evidence of this series, they’re in danger of sliding down even further, with the fifth ranked Australians primed to overtake them.

Australia would be feeling bullet-proof right about now.

In the form of David Warner, Australia boasts one of the most explosive openers in world cricket. He is in the form of his life.

Mitchell Johnson is arguably the fastest bowler going around in Test ranks at the moment.

Ryan Harris exudes quality, while Peter Siddle has become the team’s Mr Reliable.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin keeps getting better with age, while skipper Michael Clarke continues to plunder mountains of runs.

Even Shane Watson rediscovered his magic touch in Perth, cracking a sparkling century that included a 22-run burst off one Graeme Swann over.

As good as the signs are for Australia, they’re equally bad for England.

The challenge for Australia is to take their hot form on the road.

“A lot of the top teams are performing at home but are not having as much success as they’d like away from home,” Clarke said.

“So that’s a big goal for us.”

But first, Australia will be aiming to deliver more body blows to England by completing a 5-0 series sweep.

Cricket Australia last night named an unchanged 12-man squad for the Boxing Day Test.

Allrounder James Faulkner has again been named in the squad despite breaking his hand on the eve of the WACA Test.

Paceman Doug Bollinger and allrounder Nathan Coulter-Nile have again been placed on standby in case any of Australia’s pacemen pull up sore in the coming days.

Skipper Michael Clarke says reclaiming the Ashes is the pinnacle of his career.

Clarke entered this series having experienced the pain of three Ashes defeats in four attempts, including the 3-0 loss in England only months ago.

He was part of Australia’s 5-0 Ashes clean sweep in 2006/07 which avenged the 2005 loss, but says this triumph is close to his heart.

“For the guys in the dressing room to feel this. I don’t think you’ll find one bloke in that dressing room who won’t say that this is the pinnacle,” Clarke said.

“I certainly don’t want to disrespect 2006/07.

“That was a very special series at a very different time in my career.

“I was a lot younger, but that was very special. Now a little bit older, a little bit greyer, this is certainly as special.

“We got them back so it feels amazing.

“Our goal is to get back to being the number one team in the world. But we’ve got two more Test matches and we’d love to go five-nil up in the series.”

He lauded his teammates for the way they bounced back after coming into this series without a win in nine Tests.

“If you don’t have success … you get to a stage when you get sick of losing or you get sick of not scoring runs or not taking wickets,” he said.

“And it goes one of two ways. As a player, you get dropped or you find a way to turn it around and have success.

“I think that’s what this team’s done … when you haven’t won, you find a way to turn it around and the only way to do that is through hard work, lots of dedication, lots of sacrifice and putting the team first.

“You would have seen throughout this series individual players have put the team first on every single occasion and that’s why we sit here as winners today.”

Clarke said he felt for rival captain Alastair Cook.

“I know what Alastair feels like at the moment. It wasn’t that long ago that I sat in the same position,” Clarke said.

“Alastair Cook is a fantastic leader.

“To play 100 Test matches, and have the record he has, I think he deserves a lot of recognition.

“I believe Alastair Cook is a wonderful player and a very good captain – and I certainly don’t believe he deserves the criticism I’ve read in the last few days. Nor do the England team.”

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