England's cricketers paraded The Ashes at The Oval, despite being thrashed by an innings and 46 runs in the final Test of a series that has fluctuated wildly, and in which none of the matches made it to a fifth day.
England's fate was all but sealed on Saturday, when Alastair Cook fell for 85 with England still trailing Australia's first innings total by 130 and the last rites were administered on Sunday morning when Jos Buttler and Mark Wood were dismissed before the heavens opened.
England may have hoped the rain would continue until Tuesday, but it was not to be, and once the showers passed England lost their final two wickets with fewer than 25 overs played in the day, which at least meant spectators were eiligible for a refund on their tickets.
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"The post-match ceremony offered virtually no acknowledgement of the fact that Australia had just won a Test," notes Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph. "Only cricket could have supplied confetti, flame-jets and yet another wailing rendition of Jerusalem as a welcome for a team who had just been smashed by an innings and 46 runs."
The defeat should not "detract from England’s overall achievement this summer, which was to upset both the odds and a dangerous Australian side", says Briggs. "But there is no denying that their woeful finish did much to deflate the Ashes balloon, while also focusing attention on the daunting challenges of the coming winter."
With Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers retiring, Australia will now embark on a period of rebuilding. England, too, are likely to make changes in the future, with opener Adam Lyth unlikely to play in the next Test after averaging 12.77, and Ian Bell also contemplating retirement.
Personnel will not be the only difference when The Ashes are next contested in 2017-18. BT Sport has won the rights to show the series, reportedly paying Cricket Australia £80m to broadcast their games.
"It will be the first time Sky has not shown an England cricket overseas tour since 1990," notes The Times. "Winning the rights to the Ashes is a major coup [for BT] as it also lands a blow on Sky, which has fashioned a reputation as the home of cricket.
"The Australian team lost the Ashes but won the final game at the Oval. That will raise expectations of a fightback on home soil in 2017 and draw in viewers expecting a closely fought series."
The Ashes 2015: Anderson out of final Test at The Oval
The Oval will host an Ashes party this week as England seek to round off their triumphant series against Australia with another victory in the fifth and final Test.
With England 3-1 up in the series and the urn already won, new coach Trevor Bayliss faces selection dilemmas ahead of the match, which starts on Thursday.
"England have questions to ponder over their fast bowlers in the short, medium and longer term," says Richard Hobson in The Times, but the team will be unchanged from that which destroyed Australia in Nottingham.
The most pressing issue appeared to concern James Anderson, the leader of the England bowling attack who missed the Trent Bridge Test with a side strain, only to see his colleagues bowl out Australia for 60.
However, it has been confirmed that he will not play at The Oval. "He's gutted but it's probably about a week too early," said England captain Alastair Cook.
"Anderson's absence means England are unchanged from the series-clinching win at Trent Bridge," says the Daily Telegraph. "There had been speculation that Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid would get his chance ahead of the winter tours of the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, but Cook said the team had been picked with victory at The Oval the only objective."
In the long term though there are questions about which of the current Test team will be included in the one-day set up this summer and beyond, while there are fears that fast bowler Mark Wood will need an operation on the ankle problem that has already forced him to miss one Test this summer.
"Wood's fitness has been a theme through the summer, his first in international cricket," says the Times, which claims he gave off an aura of "confusion and apprehension over what may or may not lie ahead".
Stuart Broad, meanwhile, has made it clear he wants to continue playing the shorter format of the game, despite being left out of the squad that beat New Zealand earlier in the summer.
Whether he does or not, he remains focused in victory at The Oval, and revealed that Cook had called the team this week to ensure they had a "burning desire" to win the series 4-1.
The Ashes 2015: Smith and Warner take over from Clarke
Australia have confirmed that Steve Smith will take over as captain after the final Ashes Test at The Oval next week, with David Warner the surprise choice as his deputy.
The announcement came just under a week before the start of the final match of the series, which will also be Michael Clarke's farewell Test. Clarke resigned as captain and announced his retirement from international cricket after England regained the Ashes at Trent Bridge earlier this month, winning the fourth Test by an innings and 78 runs to take an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
Smith's elevation to captain once Clarke has gone is no surprise. He was Clarke's deputy and is already captain of Australia's One-Day and T20 teams.
Australian selector Rod Marsh described him as a "fine young man with extraordinary talent".
His job will not be easy though. "The team needs regeneration but also revitalisation and even reunification," says Cricinfo. "It is a lot for a new leader to take on." The website notes that he will inherit a dressing room shorn of many of its biggest characters, including Clarke and dropped wicket keeper Brad Haddin.
One character who does remain is David Warner, and his selection as vice-captain has raised eyebrows.
It gives "an insight into how Australia's cricket culture is changing", says Scyld Berry of the Daily Telegraph. In previous series Warner has been a pitbull, snarling at opponents and frequently finding himself in trouble as a result. Now, "Warner – if not quite going from pitbull to poodle – has decided to become respectable", says Berry.
"The IPL has had its effect upon Warner's decision to maximise his career and earning opportunities, instead of having an immediate impact by unleashing his aggression."
It is not just Warner seeking to maximise his income. Cricket Australia is hoping to capitalise on England's Ashes afterglow with a new deal for the TV rights to cricket in Australia.
"Australia's existing four-year UK deal with Sky Sports is estimated to be worth about £50m," says the FT. "But the country’s cricket governing body for the sport is hopeful of surpassing this on the back of interest in the Ashes series due to be played Down Under in 2017/18 and the popular Twenty20 Big Bash league."
The Ashes 2015: 'Pomicide' as 60 all out sets BBC record
On one of the most extraordinary days in the history of Test cricket, England annihilated Australia at Trent Bridge and all but won the Ashes, dismissing the tourists for just 60 runs and then piling on the runs to finish day one with a lead of more than 200.
The crowd at Trent Bridge could not believe what it was seeing as records tumbled as fast as Australian wickets, with Stuart Broad claiming eight for 15 and the Aussies bowled out in 90 mad minutes before lunch.
Not only were England ripping up the record books on the field, they were also creating history off the field too.
- At one point 420,000 people were reading the BBC Test Match Special live page, making it the most popular live page in the history of the BBC website, even beating the corporation's online coverage of World Cups and elections.
- The Australian first innings was over so quickly that it made the front pages of the Australian papers on Friday. The Sydney Morning Herald summed up the collapse in one word: Pomicide. It described the events at Trent Bridge as "Australia's blackest day".
- In 2013 the Brisbane Courier Mail vowed never to report on Stuart Broad over his refusal to 'walk' after edging a ball to the slips against Australia. Since then it has referred to him as "the medium-pacer". On Friday it admitted Australia had been "Broadsided" and reported: "Stuart Broad tore the heart out of Australia with figures of 8-15."
- Michael Clarke's eight-minute press conference at the end of the day's play lasted as long as Australia's first three batsmen did at the crease.
- It was only the fifth Test innings that has lasted fewer than 140 balls since Twitter was founded in 2006.
The Ashes 2015: Australia 60 all out – how the records tumbled
England cricket captain Alastair Cook urged his team to "make history" before the start of the Trent Bridge Test. It didn't take them long.
In bowling out Australia for just 60 in fewer than 20 overs and less than 90 minutes they re-wrote the record books.
Here are just some of the milestones that were passed on a crazy first morning that ended with England batting on 13-0:
- Australia's innings lasted just 111 balls making it the shortest-ever first innings in Test history.
- Stuart Broad now shares the record for the fastest-ever five-wicket haul. He took just 19 balls to remove five Australians, equalling the record of Australian Ernie Toshack.
- It was the quickest-ever five wicket haul at the start of a Test match.
- Broad finished with figures of 8-15, the best ever bowling figures at Trent Bridge in Test cricket and the best figures for a fast bowler in Ashes history.
- Australia's fourth wicket fell after just 16 balls, the earliest it has ever come in a Test. Likewise the fifth, which came after 31 balls.
- Extras top-scored in an Ashes innings for the first time. Sundries contributed 14, Australia's top scorer was Mitchell Johnson, with 13.
- Chris Rogers was first man out, and recorded his first duck for Australia - after 45 innings.
- England became only the fourth team to bat and bowl in the first session of a Test match, the first time it has happened this century.
The Ashes: why are Australia favourites for Trent Bridge?
As what is surely the most topsy-turvy Ashes series in history lurches from one drama to another, who would be brave enough to predict what might happen in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge?
An England win would secure them the urn, while victory for Australia would continue England's bizarre win/lose record to eight Tests and set up a decider at The Oval. But even after England's rout of Australia at Edgbaston it is unclear which team is on top.
"England, playing at home, lead the series 2-1. They thrashed Australia by eight wickets in the last match. Yet Australia are the bookies' favourites to win at Trent Bridge," notes Vic Marks in The Guardian.
The confusion is evident Down Under as well, where Australia are also favourites for the Nottingham Test. England may have the momentum, says Greg Baum of the Sydney Morning Herald, but it counts for little. "When both teams say now they'll forget about the previous match, each for their own reason, you have to believe them. Three times already in this series, they've played as if the previous match never happened.
The problem could be that neither side is very good. "It has been hard to escape the feeling that what we have on our hands is a pairing of mediocre Test sides bolstered by a pair of outright match-winners: Joe Root and the now-injured Jimmy Anderson for England, Steve Smith and hot-or-not Mitchell Johnson for Australia," says Russell Jackson of the Guardian.
"Whichever side ends up winning this Ashes will probably have done so by virtue of collapse-avoidance more than anything else. From the players involved to date you could probably construct a composite top six that couldn’t honestly be backed to cobble together 100 between them."
That assessment only increases the pressure on England opener Adam Lyth, who has yet to make an impact on the series. England are right to stick with him for this Test says former skipper Nasser Hussain in the Daily Mail. "But - and it's an important but - Lyth cannot afford a fourth successive match of low scores," he says. Trent Bridge is "make or break".
But Geoffrey Boycott in the Daily Telegraph does not think England have any other options. "Who is there to replace him? The cupboard is bare. People will put forward their personal favourites, be swayed by county runs or just biased, but does any candidate stand out? No."
The problem lies in the English county game says Simon Heffer, also in the Telegraph. In England cricket county "supporters and players are already, in terms of numbers, steeply in decline", he says.
"International first-class cricket has not had its day quite yet, but it is hard to see how we are improving our chances of bringing through fine new players at Test level if county cricket’s irrelevance is allowed to grow."
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