Australia reclaim the Ashes with win at WACA
AUSTRALIA has won back the Ashes in emphatic style after Josh Hazlewood farewelled the WACA with the trait the
ground will forever be linked with - outstanding fast bowling.
Hazlewood stormed to a five-wicket haul as Australia went up 3-0 in the series to humiliate England and defy the embarrassing wet pitch fiasco that at one point threatened the final day of play even going ahead.
Australia are now eyeing off a second consecutive whitewash on home soil, with extreme doubt over the futures of England's underperforming stars - with Kevin Pietersen declaring that one of Stuart Broad or James Anderson should be axed for Boxing Day.
On the second morning of the match England were in control at 4-368.
The final damage was a mammoth loss by an innings and 41 runs with more than a session to spare.
Australian captain Steve Smith was named man of the match.
"It's amazing. A moment that we've been looking forward to for a long time," Smith said.
"So much has gone into this preparation and Ashes series and the way we've gone about it has been spectacular.
"Four hundred in the first innings is a good total and to be able to come out and get a massive score and only have to bat once in this fixture (is incredible).
"Bowlers have done a great job throughout this whole series and to have taken 60 wickets in past three matches… the boys are going to celebrate really hard tonight I can assure you of that."
"Josh Hazlewood was magnificent today. He hit really good areas and to get Bairstow early in the day, made it easier for us.
"What an amazing feeling, to win an Ashes series, my first as captain, be 3-0 up and get that urn back, it's quite incredible. I'm really proud of the achievements of all this group."
England coach Trevor Bayliss claimed the pitch had become "dangerous" overnight after moisture had mysteriously seeped under the covers and left some soft and wet patches, which Simon Katich said had left the wicket feeling like "play dough."
Former Test great Adam Gilchrist said the pitch had changed from the night before, and although umpire Chris Gaffaney agreed the surface had been "altered" - the officials still gave the green light for the match to proceed, prompting dismayed head-shaking from England skipper Joe Root.
It avoided a farcical finish for the WACA as an Ashes Test venue, but the resumption of play after 28 overs lost did nothing to stop the controversy.
Hazlewood immediately exploited the very patch that groundstaff had been so feverishly trying to dry and harden up with industrial leaf blowers, and the ball appeared to stay low as it cleaned up Jonny Bairstow's off-stump.
Bairstow shook his head and smiled as if to reference the unplayable nature of the conditions, but Hazlewood was having none of that and roared down the pitch to celebrate as Australia looked to lift.
"There's no way the pitch today is in the same condition as it was yesterday," said Adam Gilchrist on BT Sport.
"We're going to hear a lot more about this in the next few days."
An over later Hazlewood hit the giant crack that lay adjacent to the soft patches and the ball deviated 6.14 degrees from the point of impact and ended up a Steve Harmison-like distance to the left of the first slip.
If England were asking questions about whether the pitch was dangerous or altered, then the two balls from Hazlewood wouldn't have helped satisfy their complaints.
After non-stop rain interruptions right up until 1pm, the rain finally stayed away and Australia immediately got to work on claiming the six wickets that would win back the urn they lost in England two and a half years ago.
Nathan Lyon trapped bunny Moeen Ali plumb lbw when there was no turn to click things into gear.
When Hazlewood managed to sneak an edge down the leg-side from a brave Dawid Malan (54) the fight was virtually over.
Pat Cummins, who barely pitched a ball up all day, removed Stuart Broad, who had little idea about a short one whizzing past his chin and edged behind.
Then Cummins ripped in first ball to No.11 James Anderson and struck him viciously on the helmet, leaving a visible mark.
Play stopped as the Australians ran to his aid, another sign that Australia has mentally got inside the heads of the English tail with their sheer pace.
Anderson padded up again but the end was nigh, with Cummins finishing the job by taking the edge of Chris Woakes sparking huge celebrations.
Controversy marred the final day with the wet pitch creating a nightmare scenario for the WACA and its curator Matt Page - soon on his way to take over duties at the MCG.
Incredibly there was no explanation from officials about what had actually happened to cause the embarrassing leak.
The umpires indicated early they weren't happy.
"100 per cent (it needs to be the same as it was last night). Has got to be the same both sides," stressed umpire Gaffaney.
"At the moment we believe the pitch has been altered overnight."
There was another drama soon after the resumption when umpires refused to go with Steve Smith's claims that he had safely caught Moeen Ali at slip off Hazlewood.
On-field umpire Marais Erasmus gave a soft call of not out, which third umpire Aleem Dar decided to stick to.
However, the final day theatre could not take away from the dominance by Australia in this third Test.
A mammoth first innings total of 9 (dec)-662 - chasing England's first up 403 - simply blew the visitors out of the water.
Smith's blazing knock of 239 coupled with Mitchell Marsh's maiden Test century had set up a famous result.
Hazlewood's class shone through when the urn was in the line and Australia's only concern now is a bruised heel giving pain to Mitchell Starc, who was on limited game time on the final day.