Melbourne:England have retained the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years, after inflicting one of Australia's heaviest losses, with a margin of an innings and 157 runs on the fourth morning at the MCG. It took less than 90 minutes for England to collect the three wickets they needed for victory, and when Tim Bresnan picked up his fourth wicket, an edge behind from Ben Hilfenhaus, the celebrations began.
Bresnan finished with 4 for 50 and was mobbed by his team-mates when the final wicket fell, and the big collection of England fans at the MCG burst into full voice. It was a wonderful moment for England, who will now aim to turn their 2-1 lead into a series victory at the SCG next week, but as the holders of the Ashes before the tour they have done enough to retain the urn.
For the first time in history, Australia have lost two Tests in a home series by an innings, and the margin was their worst defeat in Australia in 98 years, and their eighth-worst of all time. There was some fight from Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle, who put together an 86-run partnership after the early loss of Mitchell Johnson, but it was only ever a matter of time for England.
During the Haddin-Siddle stand, both men cleared the boundary off Graeme Swann, providing something to cheer for the Australian fans who had turned up despite the certain result. Haddin's half-century came in 86 balls and Siddle posted his highest Test score, before the end came in a rush with Siddle and Hilfenhaus falling in quick succession, and the injured Ryan Harris unable to bat.
Johnson was bowled by Chris Tremlett in the second over of the day for 6 and it seemed like the morning's play would be over in a rush, before Haddin and Siddle came together. It took a while for the next wicket, Siddle (40) caught on the boundary straight down the ground when he slogged Swann, and England knew their goal was almost achieved.
Now, the questions turn to Sydney and what each team can achieve with the Ashes already decided. For England, the goal is obvious - win or draw and ensure they take the Ashes outright, rather than simply retaining them.
For Australia, the series can still be drawn, but they must decide whether to make changes, including whether to risk Ricky Ponting with his broken finger. Ponting had x-rays during the morning, and when he spoke straight after the defeat he didn't know the results, but was still hopeful of playing at the SCG.
"I've got a point to prove to myself and the team, with my performances in the past four Tests," Ponting said. "I will be doing everything I can to be ready for Sydney. I still think I've got a lot to offer the Australian cricket team."
"It's pretty hard to accept," Ponting said of the loss. "We haven't deserved it, that's the bottom line, haven't played well enough. It was tough, but wasn't a 98 all out wicket. They showed us how to bat. We can still level the series, which has got to be the motivation for us. Get to Sydney and salvage some pride. We've let ourselves down and our supporters down."
After the past 18 months were all geared towards regaining the Ashes, Australia's future must involve some changes. Andrew Strauss and his England team can celebrate a much-deserved triumph.