England lost the Ashes before Christmas with a third successive landslide defeat, despite Ben Stokes’ maiden Test century.
Stokes (120) was the cornerstone of the tourists’ belated defiance on a Perth pitch full of crazy-paving cracks, but they were still bowled out for 353 early on the final afternoon as Australia regained the urn with a 150-run win and unassailable 3-0 lead.
In notional pursuit of a world-record 504 to win, or in the hope of eking out England’s second innings for more than five sessions in all, Stokes deserved significant credit for delaying the inevitable for so long.
His skill and determination, in only his second Test, were justly rewarded with a memorable and chanceless century.
It was also England’s first of a series in which they have fallen badly short against hosts hell-bent on revenge after three successive Ashes defeats.
Alastair Cook’s tourists travelled down under perhaps in expectation rather than mere hope of beating their oldest adversaries again.
Instead, they have been outplayed throughout – and it was down almost single-handedly to 22-year-old Stokes that even a modicum of pride was salvaged here.
It has taken only 14 days of cricket, in fact, for Australia to win the Ashes for the first time since their 5-0 whitewash of Andrew Flintoff’s team six winters ago.
England’s only remaining business down under this time is to avoid a repeat of that ignominy, by somehow battling back in Melbourne on Boxing Day and Sydney in the new year.
Stokes played admirably straight here, and struck the ball powerfully off either foot – on the fourth evening mostly with Ian Bell and Matt Prior through a taxing morning.
Prior was gone by the time Stokes reached his hundred, with a hook fine off Mitchell Johnson (four for 78) for his 16th four from the 159th ball he faced.
It was to Stokes and Prior’s great credit that they had come through the first hour, with much skill and plenty of luck essential too as Australia bowled especially well and honed in on the myriad cracks with the old ball.
Both players therefore played and missed plenty, but kept out the straight ones and cashed in on the rare occasion of anything loose.
Stokes was into the 90s by the time the second new ball was taken, and immediately Ryan Harris hit a crack which – not for the first time – diverted the delivery at an impossible angle, but mercifully wide of off-stump.
The sixth-wicket pair had put on 76 when Prior played only his second false shot of the morning, and paid for it, edging Johnson behind as he aimed to hit some width on the up past point.
But Tim Bresnan, who had batted better than most in England’s faulty first innings, accompanied Stokes past his century and to lunch still with only six wickets down.
England’s slide was swift in the afternoon, though, predictably after Stokes was gone – getting a fine under-edge on a sweep at Nathan Lyon (three for 70) to be caught behind by the impressive Brad Haddin.
Graeme Swann slog-swept one boundary before going bat-pad to the off-spinner, and Bresnan fell to an oustanding catch off Johnson by Chris Rogers at mid off.
Finally, much of the WACA went into rapture when James Anderson popped a catch to short-leg – off who else but Johnson – to put England’s ill-starred campaign out of its misery, for nine days at least.