When Alastair Cook went for the toss at the Gabba on the morning of November 21, 2013, he would never have imagined the kind of Australian domination that his team would face subsequently. After the third test at Perth, when a 5-0 whitewash could have possibly been avoided, the English side buckled further, rather than trying to avoid total humiliation. The margin of defeat in every test match from Brisbane to Sidney has been so hugely tilted against England that to call it total annihilation will not be an overstatement.
But the surrender at SCG in three days, tops all losses in this Ashes Series. On day one, England, at one time, looked like having an upper hand after reducing Australia to 97/5 after 28 overs. It was as if the two debutant bowlers in England squad, Boyd Rankin and Scott Borthwick would help them salvage some lost pride. But England allowed Brad Haddin to play the savior once again. Haddin had Steven Smith for company at the other end, who ended up scoring his second century in the series. The England bowlers had done a good job earlier and the new man Stokes looked particularly ominous. Stokes had helpful support from Anderson and Broad but that couldn’t stop the act of resurrection from Haddin and Smith. Haddin finally departed for 75 and with this score, he got credited with an amazing feat of scoring at least a fifty in the first innings of every match. Australia went on to finish their first innings for 326 and by the time the first day’s play was called off, Mitchell Johnson had already removed Michael Carberry.
England seemed to openly invite the whitewash on day 2 of the SCG test, as Alastair cook blocked a straight delivery from Ryan Harris with his pads and was declared out LBW. Not just Harris but Johnson and Siddle also bowled tightly to keep England batsmen guessing and playing awkwardly. The weather on second day helped the Australian seam bowlers to derive substantial purchase from the pitch and when five batsmen had gone back to the pavilion, England had an insultingly low score of 23 on the scoreboard. The last time an English side had lost five wickets for such a low score was in 1887. When Ian Bell was the fifth man out at 23, the highest individual score in the innings was 7 by skipper Cook. Mercifully, Stokes, Ballance, Bairstow and Broad put up a semblance of resistance later in the innings and England finished with 155 all out.
When Australia came out to bat for the second time on day 2, the writing on the wall was quite clear. Only rains could have saved England. Chris Rogers was chipping well and he was not out on 73 at stumps. Rogers scored quickly and looked like matching his performance at the MCG, where he had scored a hundred. In the process, Rogers was also rewarded with a rare seven runs, when he and Michael Clarke had already run three and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow through the ball at the other end for a run-out possibility. There was no one to back up, as the ball raced to the boundary. Australia finished the day at 140/ 4 and their lead over England had swelled to over 300 runs.
On day 3, Rogers and Bailey decided to build the innings and make things hot for England, should they try to pull a miracle in the fourth innings. The first session before lunch yielded 136 runs, with the two overnight batsmen crossing a 100-plus partnership. Though Bailey got out just before lunch, Rogers reached his second consecutive century. Australia began the second session at 250/7 but their last three wickets could add just 26 runs. In any case, England still needed a massive 448 to avoid the imminent whitewash.
Going by their recent form, scoring 448 was a monumental task for England. If they were capable of such heroics, such demonstration would have come earlier. Cook flashed on the off-side to a delivery from Johnson and was only successful in getting caught behind. Bell and Pietersen too followed to some indiscreet shots. At tea, England were 87/3 and their only solace lay in taking the game to the fourth day.
After tea, Johnson snapped two wickets in an over and so did Nathan Lyon in his next over. Though Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad hit some boundaries, the clock kept ticking unfavorably for England. Debutant Rankin was the last man out to give five wickets to Ryan Harris as England folded at 166. It was the sixth time in ten innings of the series that England had failed to reach 200. As luck would have, Rankin’s catch fell in the hands of Australian captain Michael Clarke, as if a gift was coming his way. The dominance of Australian bowlers could be gauged from the fact that 7 English wickets fell after tea in just 52 minutes. There could be no other example of such shameless surrender.
With the whitewash complete, there were stark contrasts in performance from the two sides. While there were ten centuries from Australia, Ben Stokes was England’s sole centurion. Mitchell Johnson yielded a performance of his life time and was rightfully named the man-of-the-series.