Australia delighted captain Michael Clarke by showing significant resilience to turn a losing position in Melbourne into another crushing Ashes victory after all.
Clarke’s team have unexpectedly dominated England throughout this winter’s series and duly went 4-0 up with an eight-wicket win at the MCG.
Clarke was not about to fuel conjecture about the possibility of completing a 5-0 whitewash in Sydney next week, after Chris Rogers (116) and Shane Watson (83no) had made light of a target of 231.
But he was full of praise for his winning collective, who conceded a first-innings deficit but still eased home again in the end with more than four sessions to spare.
“That was probably the greatest challenge for this team,” said Clarke.
“I think for the first time in this series, we were behind in a Test match -and we had to find a way to claw our way back into it. We let ourselves down with the bat – certainly our top six batters didn’t bat as well as we would have liked in the first innings.”
Mitchell Johnson was then to the fore again, alongside off-spinner Nathan Lyon this time, as England collapsed in their second innings.
Rogers and Brad Haddin, who passed 50 for the fifth time in the series from number seven to narrow England’s mid-match lead, were also key performers.
Victory number four was particularly pleasing for Clarke, not just because Australia had to dig a little deeper but after they proved they will not let up even though the Ashes are already in the bag.
“I think it’s a very special win for a number of reasons, (starting with) the fact that a lot of people thought we would come here complacent and not have the same willpower to continue to play the same way as in the first three Tests,” he said.
Johnson was not required for the victory push – having played his part alreadywith an eight-wicket match haul.
He lost his cool on the third afternoon when, with gusty winds already regularly interrupting play, he had to pull out of his run-up because Kevin Pietersen was distracted by movement behind the arm.
Johnson stopped and hurled the ball, in Pietersen’s general direction but harmlessly wide of the batsman.
“I don’t think I took it too far – I was getting annoyed at what he was doing,” said the fast bowler, who has taken 31 wickets in the series.
“He kept pulling away.
“I did find out later that there was a little kid crawling across the sightscreen.
“But you look at the size of the sightscreen – they’re pretty big here.
Meanwhile Alastair Cook is determined to continue as England captain – even if he loses the Ashes 5-0 – until someone instructs him otherwise.
Cook made it clear he is no quitter, but understands judgments about his future as captain – little more than a year into his tenure – may yet be taken out of his hands. “I’m 100 per cent wanting to carry on.
“If someone makes that decision, and says ’we think there’s a better man’ or ’you’re not good enough to do it’ then I have to take that on the chin – because as a captain, you’re responsible for the team.”
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