LONDON • England won cricket's Ashes yesterday after sealing victory by an innings and 78 runs in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series.
Little more than 18 months after suffering a 0-5 humiliation in Australia, England reclaimed the urn with their second straight Test victory achieved inside three days of play, bringing the curtain down with a flourish on one of English cricket's most difficult periods.
After thrilling victories at Cardiff and Edgbaston, either side of a chastening 405-run defeat at Lord's, England began day three with an 89-run lead, needing just three Australian wickets to seal the series.
Mitchell Starc went for a duck to Ben Stokes (who finished with a Test-best six for 36) in the fourth over of play, before Mark Wood (three for 69) claimed the final two wickets of Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon as England bowled out Australia for 253 inside the first hour of play to prompt wild scenes of celebration at Trent Bridge.
It was the first time this year that England had won back-to-back Tests.
Australia collapsed to 60 all out in 111 balls - the shortest completed first innings in Test history - on Thursday's first day.
Man-of-the-match Stuart Broad, who took two wickets in the first over of the match, including his 300th at this level, finished with a Test-best return of eight for 15.
"It's unbelievable," said England captain Cook at the presentation ceremony. "I couldn't be happier. For what we've been through over the last 18 months, to play like we did has been fantastic. I'm so proud of this young team and the way they've taken this opportunity."
Australian Trevor Bayliss, who took over as England coach shortly before this series, has been widely praised for his role. But Cook acknowledged the role of Bayliss' sacked predecessor, Peter Moores, by saying: "A lot has happened behind the scenes, and we need to thank Peter Moores - we did make some strides under Mooresy. This is for you, Peter."
This win was particularly impressive as England were without James Anderson after their all-time leading wicket-taker suffered a side injury at Edgbaston.
For Australia, the rebuilding job began immediately after the final wicket fell, with skipper Michael Clarke confirming his widely-reported retirement from international cricket after the series finale at The Oval later this month and an ageing batting line-up set to be dismantled.
"Our goal was to come here and try and have some success," said Clarke, on the losing side for a fourth successive Ashes series in England. "Alastair Cook and the England team deserve a lot of credit - they've shown us how to execute good swing and seam bowling.
"It's not for want of trying but the boys have been beaten by a better side."
Clarke revealed that he made the decision to retire on Friday evening. "I felt my performances weren't as good as I wanted them to be," he said. "The decision is never easy. I started playing this great game at six years of age. I'm 34. I wish I could play for another 30 years."
The fifth Test begins at The Oval on Aug 20.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE