The Ashes clean sweep that Michael Clarke refuses to contemplate is just one game away after England suffered another thrashing in the fourth Test.
Australia go to the SCG on Friday with their confidence sky high after the eight-wicket win with a day to spare at the MCG yesterday, set up by Chris Rogers’ second Ashes century.
“Of course I want to win the next Test match,” Clarke said.
“But I want to celebrate this win first before I think about that. This was a very special win for a number of reasons.
“A lot of people thought we would come here complacent and not have the same willpower to continue to play the same way as in the first three Tests.
“For the first time in this series we found ourselves behind in the game and over the last couple of days we’ve been able to turn that around and win convincingly.”
But doubts over at least three players will test the Australian selectors and medical staff over the next few days before Clarke has the chance to emulate Ricky Ponting in 2006-07 and Warwick Armstrong (1920-21) by captaining a 5-0 Ashes whitewash.
Coach Darren Lehmann said paceman Ryan Harris remained doubtful with knee and ankle ailments and severe blisters, Shane Watson was struggling with a groin strain despite making 83 not out in Australia’s 2-231 yesterday and George Bailey was in urgent need of runs to maintain his career.
Matching Australia’s remarkable win against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 1997, they were 100 behind with all 10 opposition wickets in place before turning the match on its head with ball then bat.
Nathan Lyon’s first five-wicket haul on home soil and another rampage from Mitchell Johnson, which earnt him a third man-of-the-match award in the series, was followed by nerveless batting by Rogers and Watson.
Rogers departed for 116 just before the end but Watson and Clarke, who were at loggerheads in India earlier in the year, embraced when the former vice-captain hit the winning runs.
As good as Australia were, England have lost virtually all their self-belief and will find it difficult to avoid another defeat in Sydney. Their lack of confidence was evident in the opening moments of the day when replacement wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow remained motionless as a waist-high Rogers edge flew beside him, and Alastair Cook soon shelled a David Warner nick that could not have been more comfortable.
Bairstow completed six catches after following his father David to become the first father and son to keep wicket for England.
But he was rarely convincing and it would not surprise if Matt Prior was recalled.
Clarke said the victory vindicated his decision to bowl first and while his team had failed to generate the momentum of its first three wins, the character and confidence of his players came to the fore under the pressure of two poor opening days.
The ease of the run chase was indicative of the team’s steely resolve that had been missing in India and the early stages of the winter Ashes.
“We experienced some earned criticism for our poor batting performance but the way our bowlers were able to turn it around in the second dig and knock them over for 179, and the way we batted today, you could see the real positive sides of this team,” Clarke said.
“I think that is the way this team has fared over the last 12 months. We’ve had our ups and downs but there is no doubt that winning feeling is back in our camp.
“That’s the way we are playing at the moment. Today could have gone any of two ways. We could have just got over the line but I think because the boys have so much confidence in their own ability and in the work they have been putting in, we ended up winning quite convincingly.”
·Five months after stress fractures forced him out of the last Ashes tour, James Pattinson is on the brink of a comeback in the Big Bash League.
Pattinson has been named in a Melbourne Renegades squad of 13 to face the Brisbane Heat at Etihad Stadium tonight.
He was last seen in first-class action at Lord’s in the second Test in July.
“Mentally, physically I feel good and ready to go,” Pattinson said.
“If it was a shield game I probably, definitely, wouldn’t be playing.”