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Test ranking next on Clarke's agenda

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Australia will chase success and the world No.1 ranking overseas after their blazing Ashes whitewash capped off one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Test cricket history.

The personal redemption of man-of-the-series Mitchell Johnson embodied the overall achievement of a team that last year was thrashed 4-0 in India and 3-0 in England.

Australia jumped two spots to third place on the Test rankings after mentally-shattered England were bowled out for 166 late on day three to ensure an emphatic 281-run thrashing in the fifth Test at the SCG.

It was only the third 5-0 series clean sweep ever recorded in Ashes cricket (after 1920-21 and 2006-07), and the first time an Australian side has remained unchanged throughout a five-match series.

The memorable moment when man-of-the-match Ryan Harris (5-25) claimed the last wicket ushered in delirious scenes in the middle as Nathan Lyon led an impromptu rendition of the team song and players completed a lap of honour in front of a packed crowd.

On Tuesday they will be honoured with a public reception at the Sydney Opera House.

Skipper Michael Clarke identified India last year as the low point for his much-maligned team, but he can now celebrate a place in history as the only player to have participated in two 5-0 Ashes sweeps.

Clarke believes Australia have the world’s best bowling attack and can challenge the No.1 Test side South Africa and then Pakistan on the road this year.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride … the start of 2013 certainly didn’t go anywhere near as well as we would have liked,” said Clarke.

“I think that’s what feels so satisfying at the moment. We’ve been able to turn things around.

“I don’t want to disrespect anyone in that 2006-07 team to say that this is a better win than then.

“I just think it’s a different time, different era.

“To me it’s as special and probably more personal because I’m captain.

“Playing away from home in international cricket seems to be hard to get results. We believe we have the team to have success.”

Coach Darren Lehmann said he took over a team which needed direction when appointed in England last year and he put his faith in a band of experienced players to win back the urn on home soil after three-straight series of Ashes failure.

Johnson delivered in breathtaking fashion, with a haul of 37 wickets at 13.9 – the most ever by an Australian fast bowler in a five-match series – to edge out evergreen wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin as player of the series.

“It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” said Johnson.

But this win was about the team.

The old school Lehmann admitted the extent of his team’s dominance surprised even him but said they still had plenty more to prove.

“They just needed some direction on where we wanted to go and how we wanted to go about it,” said Lehmann.

“I thought we had the makings of winning the Ashes comfortably, but not 5-0.

“We need to move forward as a team and win away from home.”

Facing an impossible task, England’s three best batsmen Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen surrendered meekly on the final morning before Johnson took two wickets in the first over after lunch then Lyon chimed in to leave the embattled tourists in a rabble at 7-95.

Harris finished the job to pip Steve Smith (first innings ton) for man-of-the-match, although 36-year-old Chris Rogers’ (119) third Test century gave Australia their formidable 447-run lead.

Coach Lehmann said he never had any doubt that experience and making cricket fun was the way back for Australia.

“You need that hard edge. It’s more about teaching young blokes along the way,” he said.

Clarke said winning the first Test in Brisbane was crucial, as was the aggressive attitude of veteran keeper-batsman Brad Haddin and Johnson and all his players.

He reserved special praise for Lehmann.

“He’s as well prepared as any coach I’ve played under,” he said.

“Boof played a big part in allowing us to play with freedom and created that environment before you even walked out.”

In the wake of the Ashes triumph Brad Haddin laid the rumour of the week to rest – he is not retiring.

The 36-year-old started the Sydney Test with whispers of his imminent retirement floating around the SCG.

He finished it with a host of records to his name, in the form of his life and with a clear view of just how long he wants to stay in international cricket.

That extends to the 2015 World Cup in Australia, when he will be 37, at least.

Despite already passing the age that champion Australian keepers Rod Marsh, Adam Gilchrist and Ian Healy ended their careers, Haddin has no doubts over whether he can soldier on.

“From a cricket point of view I probably haven’t played as much cricket as guys my age (normally would have),” said Haddin, a veteran of 168 first class games.

“A lot of guys my age would’ve played 250 first class games.

“As long as I’m still challenging myself and things are going in the right direction at home I’ll play as long as I’m enjoying it and contributing to this team being the team we want to be.”

There’s no question over his contributions against England.

He finished second on the run-scoring list, scored a half century in every first innings of the series and became the fourth Australian gloveman to score 3000 Test runs, joining Healy, Marsh and Gilchrist.

During his second innings 28 in the 281-run victory at the SCG on Sunday, he also passed Gilchrist’s record for most runs made by a No.7 – a mark which now stands at 493.

“I don’t think I’ve had a better feeling in cricket than I did after we got that last wicket today,” he said.

Ashes series by the numbers

* Australia became the third side in history to record a 5-0 Ashes whitewash after it was last done in 1920-21 and 2006-07.

* Australian captain Michael Clarke is the only player to have ever been involved in two 5-0 results.

* Overall it’s the fifth time Australia have recorded a 5-0 Test victory. The other two times coming against West Indies in 2000-01 and South Africa in 1931-32

* Clarke’s side became the first Australian team to go through a five-match Test series completely unchanged. Only three Test teams had done it before.

* Mitchell Johnson with a record of 37 wickets at 13.9 took more wickets in a five-match Ashes series than any Australian fast bowler in history. Johnson is ninth on the overall Ashes all-time list. Rodney Hogg (1978-79) took 41 wickets in the six Test series, 40 of those in the first five Tests.

*Six Australians made 300 or more runs this series compared to zero from England. Allrounder Ben Stokes was the highest with 279 and he scored England’s only 100.

* First time Australia has ever taken all 100 wickets an Ashes series.

* Brad Haddin became the fourth Australian wicketkeeper to reach 3000 Test runs. Haddin also became the first player in more than 40 years to score a half century in every match of an Ashes series. He also surpassed Adam Gilchrist for most runs at No.7 in a series.

* Nathan Lyon took at least one wicket in every innings of the series, and the No.11 batsman also avoided being dismissed at any stage over the five matches.

* Australia’s 10 centuries this series equals their records for most hundreds in an Ashes series.

* Chris Rogers finishes the back-to-back Ashes series as the highest run-scorer with 831 through the ten Tests.

 

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