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Australia cruise to 4-0 Ashes series lead

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Sun, Dec 29, 2013 04:49 hrs
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Melbourne: Chris Rogers struck a sparkling century to fire Australia to a dominant eight-wicket win in the fourth Ashes test on Sunday, leaving an insipid England staring down the barrel of a humiliating series whitewash.

Scorecard


The victory, completed before tea on day four, pushed Australia to a 4-0 series lead and the prospect of sweeping England in the fifth and final test in Sydney seven years after Ricky Ponting's team whitewashed the tourists in 2006-07.



Needing quick wickets to have any chance of salvaging pride at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, England suffered a major blow when their captain Alastair Cook put down two catches at first slip in the first half-hour that would have removed Rogers for 19 and his opening partner David Warner for 22.

Though Warner lasted only three more runs, Rogers combined with number three batsman Shane Watson to flog a demoralised attack, their carefree partnership of 136 putting the hosts within 31 runs of victory before the opener succumbed for 116.

Australia captain Michael Clarke (six not out) joined Watson (83 not out) to administer the last rites for England, who played out the final sessions with a deflating weariness to allow the hosts to mow through the 231 runs required for victory without breaking sweat.

Watson whipped a boundary square to secure the win in style, and charged down the sun-bathed pitch pumping his arms as a crowd of more than 38,000 roared their approval.

"To be 4-0 up is hard to describe, it's an amazing feeling," Clarke said in a pitchside interview after the Australian skipper celebrated the win by reaching 8,000 runs in tests when he had scored three.

"I think it shows the confidence in the players if nothing else. I think the guys have worked exceptionally hard and now they have the confidence to play with freedom out in the middle.

"For the boys to be able to turn that all around I think they deserve a lot of credit."

Having started the day needing 201 runs for victory, Rogers added only one run before nicking a Stuart Broad delivery behind but wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, replacement for the dropped Matt Prior, teamed up with Cook to make an absolute mess of the chance.

Bairstow stuck barnacle-like to his mark rather than take the catch that was rightfully his, leaving a late-moving Cook to put down the ball after lunging to his right with one hand.

England heads dropped further when Cook put down the simplest of chances shortly after, with Warner driving recklessly at a Ben Stokes delivery to send the nick straight into the skipper's lap.

Mercifully for Cook, Warner added only three more runs, before slashing at another Stokes ball to be snaffled by Bairstow.

Rogers rode his luck to his half-century, moving to 49 when an inside edge whistled past the stumps and beat the keeper to run for four, but brought up the milestone with a lovely cut through the covers for two.

After he and Watson helped drive Australia past 100, the pair opened their shoulders in the last 40 minutes before lunch to smack 113 runs in the morning session.

They continued the carnage after the break, racing to 200 after Rogers brought up his second test century with a sublime off-drive for four off the bowling of James Anderson.

After Watson brought up his second half-century of the series, Rogers was eventually dismissed by spinner Monty Panesar for his highest score in test cricket, slashing an edge to Bairstow.

"Doesn't get better than this to win a Boxing Day test and get 100 on the last day. It's what dreams are made of," the 36-year-old Rogers said in a pitchside interview after making his second test century in a late-blooming international career.

Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson, who took eight wickets, was named man-of-the-match, having won the award for both the first two tests in Brisbane and Adelaide.

The dropped catches will only add further pressure to Cook, who waited an hour and a half before introducing spinner Panesar in the morning, by which time Australia's batsmen were well on top.

In truth, England's batsmen surrendered the match on day three when they collapsed to be all out for 179 after tea, having lost their last five wickets for six runs.

"The good thing about this game is that we got an opportunity to win it," Cook said.

"In the first half-hour we created three chances. When it's a low run chase you need to take those chances. We didn't take them and we got punished for the rest of that.

"There's a lot of things we are struggling to explain."

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