The happiest people at Bellerive Oval on Sunday night were the England cricket team. The nightmare was finally over.
They can now head home to lick their wounds while the Australians celebrate long and hard.
The looks on the faces of both sides during the Ashes presentation ceremony said it all: the Aussies cock-a-hoop, looking like they’d happily pad up for a sixth, seventh and eight Test; the English shell-shocked, battered and bruised. Looking for the exits.
Even England captain Joe Root, who had somehow managed to keep a stiff upper lip and chipper attitude throughout the tour from hell, looked thoroughly whipped. And why wouldn’t he?
In 10 Tests over two series in Australia he is yet to lead his country to a single win, the worst record by an England captain in Ashes history.
The Aussies looked like they’d happily pad up for a sixth, seventh and eight Test after winning the Ashes on Sunday night
He was in good company though. The English top order was woeful throughout the tour, with opener Rory Burns setting the scene with his golden duck on the first ball of the series.
In a crowded field Burns takes the award as the most disappointing Englishman on tour. If he hadn’t got on the plane at Heathrow he wouldn’t have been missed.
The same can’t be said for some of the England bowlers. They toiled long and hard in unfamiliar conditions with the unfriendly Kookaburra balls and at times even managed to unsettle the Australian batters.
David Warner would no doubt gladly offer to carry Stuart Broad’s bags to the airport, so happy will he be to finally see the back of him and his headband.
Warner is the type of pugnacious, belligerent character who would hate to be thought of any bowler’s ‘bunny’, but that is exactly what he is to Broad, having been dismissed by the England quick on 14 occasions.
Australia sealed a 4-0 series win in Hobart. Root – pictured right after being bowled out – has the worst record by an England captain in Ashes history
Broad wasn’t England’s best on tour though. That distinction goes to Mark Wood. Wood’s 6/37 in Australia’s second innings in Hobart could have been a metaphor for the England attack over the entire series. Blood, sweat and ultimately tears as the effort counted for naught at the end of the day.
Still, at least he got a chance to bowl, which is more than can be said for England’s hard luck story of the tour, Ben Stokes. If there is a more competitive cricketer in the game, he must be locked up somewhere.
Stokes arrived in Australia on next to no preparation and his body let him down. Even so, he chased down every ball as if his career depended on it. Too bad not enough of his team-mates showed the same attitude – and they will pay the price.
Australian coach Justin Langer and David Warner celebrate after retaining the Ashes on Sunday night
The only batter to display any real aggression was Jonny Bairstow in Sydney, and much of that was aimed at a loudmouth spectator.
The Englishmen will now arrive home to a tepid reception and an uncertain future. Root’s captaincy and the job of coach Chris Silverwood are on shaky ground to say the least.
As for Burns and his fellow so-called ‘top order’, they should stock up on souvenirs before they fly out of Australia, because they won’t be coming back.
The only Englishman to come out of the tour with his reputation enhanced was 30-year-old keeper Sam Billings who was headed to the airport after a season with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash when Silverwood crash-tackled him and put a blue cap on his head.
In his one Test Billings managed not to make a duck and took five catches in the second innings, which is enough to have him awarded an OBE and the captaincy.
But enough of the Poms. Given the hoops they had to jump through, they were really only here to provide someone for the home team to beat up, sort of like the Washington Senators to the Harlem Globetrotters.
Which leads to the question: were the Aussies really that good, or were the English just that bad?
Probably a bit of both. In the euphoria of the 4-0 series win the Australian selectors still have some hard thinking to do.
Pat Cummins can be criticised very gently for erring on the conservative side as Australian captain
Such as, what to do about Justin Langer? It wasn’t so long ago that all the players hated him. Now, after winning the T20 World Cup and Ashes, only about half of them do.
Will he get a new contract? Like his popularity in the dressing room, it’s a 50-50 call. One thing is certain though, if he does get moved on by Cricket Australia, England will want him.
What about the future of the Australian batting line-up?
It’s hard to be critical of anyone after a lopsided Ashes win, but despite a few big scores early, the big three of Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne never really took the series by the scruff of the neck.
At 29 Labuschagne will be around for a long while yet, but at 35 and 32 Warner and Smith could have turned the corner. The same with 35-year-old Usman Khawaja. It’s not an issue now, but it will be soon.
Scott Boland was the feel-good story of the series after a stunning performance at the MCG. He is pictured celebrating the wicket of Chris Woakes on Sunday at Hobart
Cummins’s captaincy? Again, after a 4-0 result how can you be critical? Very gently, that’s how. It’s easy in retrospect, but if he shows a weakness, it is that he errs on the conservative side.
If he had declared earlier in Sydney the series would have been won 5-0 and have you ever seen anyone look more tortured when deciding whether to challenge a decision?
Still, it’ll come, and you can tell the players want to play for him.
As for the gems to have been unearthed, the new-look, trust-my-instincts, have-a-crack Travis Head was a revelation, Scott Boland was the feel-good story of the series and Cameron Green has so much potential it is frightening.
All of which added up to an Ashes battle that was absorbing, entertaining and just good old-fashioned fun enjoyed by everyone.
Except if you’re English of course.