Australia thrashed England by an innings and 41 runs in the third Test in Perth on Monday to reclaim the Ashes with two matches to spare and condemn Joe Root’s team to a period of gloomy introspection.
Seamer Josh Hazlewood finished with a five-wicket haul as England were bowled out for 218 before tea on a rain-hit final day at the WACA.
Four years after Alastair Cook’s side meekly surrendered the Ashes at the same venue, Root’s England were condemned to hand back the urn with the same humiliating 3-0 scoreline.
Australia quick Pat Cummins wrapped up the match, dismissing Chris Woakes (22) behind the wicket, triggering a round of bear-hugs with whooping team-mates in the middle.
His captain Steve Smith was named man-of-the-match for a second time in the series, his brilliant 239 having left England with an improbable second innings mountain to climb.
“It’s been an amazing couple of weeks, I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it,” the beaming skipper told reporters.
“To know everything has worked out and we’ve been able to get that urn back, all the emotions came out at once.”
Smith’s dominant series has put his counterpart in the shade, with Root struggling with the bat and let down badly by his senior players across the three defeats at the WACA, Adelaide Oval and in Brisbane.
“It’s bitterly disappointing,” Root told reporters.
“One of the most frustrating things is we haven’t been blown away.
“In all three games there have been period where we’ve matched and outplayed Australia.
“I’m sure the next day or so will be pretty tough but we’ve got a bit of time to get ready for Melbourne … and show the character of the group we have.”
Heavy overnight showers leaked rainwater onto the pitch in an embarrassment for the WACA ground staff and rain squalls further delayed the resumption of play.
But even with some 28 overs and some three hours lost to the weather, it was far from enough to save the tourists, who lost their last six wickets for 85 runs.
They resumed in peril on 132 for four, still 127 runs short of making Australia bat again, on a pitch with cracks snaking at both ends of the wicket.
Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow, who combined for a gallant 237-run partnership in the first innings, were tasked with the rescue mission but the England wicketkeeper was bowled for 14 on the first delivery he faced.
It was a delivery from Hazlewood that skidded low off a crack and clattered into off-stump, in a portent of a miserable afternoon for the tourists.
Incoming batsman Moeen Ali was very nearly out four balls later, when he edged the same bowler just short of Smith in the slips.
He was unable to capitalise on his reprieve, falling leg before for 11, with fellow off-spinner Nathan Lyon snaring his wicket for the fifth time in the series.
Malan backed up his first innings hundred with a half-century when he pulled Cummins to the fence.
But he was caught behind for 54 trying to pull Hazlewood after being well worked over by the tall seamer.
England’s tail had proved hopelessly brittle against Australia’s bouncers throughout the series, and it duly fell over, with Hazlewood claiming his fifth victim when Craig Overton was caught in the gully for 12.
Cummins wrapped up the match by having Stuart Broad (zero) and Woakes nick behind, prompting celebrations in the modest day five crowd of 8,082.