|THE ASHES SERIES 2017-18|
|23-27 Nov 17||FIRST Australia beat England by 10 wickets||Brisbane|
|02-06 Dec 17||SECOND Australia beat England by 120 runs||Adelaide (D/N)|
|14-18 Dec 17||THIRD Australia beat England by an innings and 41 runs||Perth|
|25-29 Dec 17||FOURTH Match drawn||Melbourne|
|03-07 Jan 18||FIFTH Australia beat England by an innings and 123 runs||Sydney|
Australia won the series 4-0
Player of the series: Steve Smith (687 runs at 137.40)
AUSTRALIA confirmed their superiority in this Ashes series, winning the fifth and final Test in Sydney by the crushing margin of an innings and 123 runs.
The Aussie victory at the SCG made it 4-0 overall with England only having avoided another whitewash by securing a draw in the fourth Test on a lifeless pitch in Melbourne.
Nevertheless, England have now failed to win any of their last 10 Tests Down Under.
Indeed, it seemed inevitable that the tourists were heading for their third whitewash in 11 years when the urn was lost in Perth before Christmas.
Senior players - namely Stuart Broad and former captain Alastair Cook - had been rightly criticised for their lack of contribution.
But, in fairness, both bit back in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Broad took 4-51, his best figures all year, to help reduce the Aussies from 260-3 to 327 all out.
Cook then carried his bat to score an unbeaten 244, the highest of any opener remaining unbeaten in Test history. It was his best performances for years.
Notably, he also became the first England opener to carry his bat since Michael Atherton in Christchurch against New Zealand in 1997, and the first English opener to achieve the feat against Australia since Geoffrey Boycott in Perth in 1979.
Sadly, England - despite posting a competitive 491 - came no closer to a consolation victory, as a third Steve Smith century guided Australia to the safety of 263-4.
England actually also started the fifth Test pretty well and were at one stage 228-3 - but the late wickets of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow took the shine off their opening day.
From that point onwards, though, it was all depressingly one-way traffic. First, England were bundled out for 346 despite some rare resistance from the tail.
Then, the Aussies truly put their visitors under the pump, declaring on 649-7 following centuries from Usman Khawaja (171), and both of the Marsh brothers Shaun (156) and Mitch (101).
Inevitably, England failed to make Australia bat again, not helped by Root being unable to continue his second innings beyond lunch on the final day.
Skipper Root was suffering from severe dehydration caused by gastroenteritis - and surely the extreme Sydney heat could only have made his condition worse.
It has indeed been stomach-turning stuff from England over much of the past two months - and, while this was not another whitewash, it was still a complete hammering.
Indeed, the cumulative aggregates for the batting and bowling of both sides neatly demonstrate the gulf between them.
Australia scored 2,982 runs in total and took 89 wickets. England, by contrast, scored 2,595 runs and took only 58 wickets, their lowest amount in an Ashes series since 1958-59.
Undoubtedly, the English bowlers have struggled, especially in comparison to their Aussie counterparts.
All of the top four wicket takers in the series were Australian - and they did not need anyone other than their main quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
Of the England bowlers, only James Anderson - with 17 wickets at 27.82 apiece - could be said to have justified his place.
Overall, England were regularly too short and lacking in the requisite pace. Lyon, meanwhile, totally outclassed Moeen Ali in the spin department.
For sure, it came as no surprise that a player in the class of Aussie skipper Smith therefore flourished.
But it was pretty galling to see the mediocre Marsh brothers were swatting away the England attack just as easily by the end.
Of course, from an England perspective, this series will be just as well remembered for events off the field.
The tourists were without the services of their best all-round player, Ben Stokes, following his arrest on suspicion of assault after an incident near a night club in Bristol in the early hours of 25 September.
Bizarrely, more than three months later, Stokes has still not yet been charged with any offence, a somewhat damning indictment of the efficiency of the British justice system.
However, there were also other incidents once England had reached Australia. Bairstow was said to have headbutted new Aussie opener Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar before the first Test.
Then, following the second Test, Ben Duckett was ejected from a tour match and left facing disciplinary action for pouring a drink over team-mate Anderson in the same bar.
Undoubtedly, the perception painted by large parts of the English media was that of a squad totally out of control. With a reactionary curfew imposed on the players, the Aussie press gleefully lapped it up.
The reality, however, was more prosaic. It quickly became evident that the Bairstow-Bancroft incident could be described, to the obvious amusement of the latter, as playful - or, at very worst, an odd example of social awkwardness.
And so, Duckett's behaviour was therefore pretty much an isolated act - and, in itself, hardly a hanging offence.
Certainly, Anderson has no problem with alcohol being poured over him when England actually manage to win a Test.
But, if it feels a long time since that was happening consistently, that's because it is. In 38 Tests since Trevor Bayliss took charge of the team in 2015, England have won 15 and lost 18.
Progress made in limited overs cricket appears to have come at the expense of performances with the red ball, and England are now correctly perceived as home-track bullies.
That should be no surprise, really. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has clearly marginalised development of the Test team in favour of their new money-spinning city-based T20 competition.
And that is a position with which the board appears pretty comfortable.
Speaking in the wake of the third Test defeat which lost the Ashes, ECB chief executive James Harrison said: "The health of the game is more than just Ashes series overseas.
"We've had record-breaking attendances in domestic and international cricket, changed our governance structure, hosted two global events, won the women's World Cup, and launched a participation initiative for kids.
"We've had a successful entry into the broadcast rights market out of which we have secured the financial future of the game until 2024."
All of which will surely come to the great comfort of the Barmy Army fans and their own individual bank balances after this winter.
Incredibly, the stench of denial became greater again at the conclusion of the campaign when Anderson - in a post-series interview - claimed England had "not been blown away".
But Anderson himself cannot be blamed for this debacle.
The biggest culprits occupy far more senior positions - they are the decision-makers who put money over all other considerations and who have turned England's senior four-day competition into a non-event.
Without games scheduled at the height of the summer, the English system will never produce a conveyor belt of top-class, genuinely quick bowlers - or, for that matter, a world-class spinner.
Where exactly is the motivation for the counties to field these players when they can get on by just fine with a trundling medium-pacer on an April green-top?
Thankfully, though, there appears to be a realisation that some fundamental change will be required in order to improve the fortunes of the England Test team on overseas tours.
Bayliss himself has stated that England may have to risk losing at home in order to improve away.
Meanwhile, former captain Michael Vaughan has made the eminently sensible suggestion of staging a selection of County Championship matches abroad.
The ECB, no doubt, will act far more slowly in addressing any issues. After all, under its watch, the game in England already has excellent corporate governance.
Of course, Australia - with the still significant advantage of being at home - may well have been triumphant regardless.
Frankly, though, this Ashes series was again far, far too easy for the Aussies. Far too easy.
ASHES SERIES 2017-18 STATISTICSCENTURIES
Australia 9-3 England
244* Alastair Cook (England), fourth Test
239 Steve Smith (Australia), third Test
181 Mitchell Marsh (Australia), third Test
171 Usman Khawaja (Australia), fifth Test
156 Shaun Marsh (Australia), fifth Test
141* Steve Smith (Australia), first Test
140 Dawid Malan (England), third Test
126* Shaun Marsh (Australia), second Test
119 Jonny Bairstow (England), third Test
103 David Warner (Australia), fourth Test
102* Steve Smith (Australia), fourth Test
101 Mitchell Marsh (Australia), fifth Test
LEADING RUN SCORERS - TOP TEN
687 Steve Smith (Australia)
445 Shaun Marsh (Australia)
441 David Warner (Australia)
383 Dawid Malan (England)
378 Joe Root (England)
376 Alastair Cook (England)
333 Usman Khawaja (Australia)
320 Mitchell Marsh (Australia)
306 Jonny Bairstow (England)
242 James Vince (England)
BATTING AVERAGES - TOP TEN
137.40 Steve Smith (Australia)
106.66 Mitchell Marsh (Australia)
74.16 Shaun Marsh (Australia)
63.00 David Warner (Australia)
48.00 Tim Paine (Australia)
47.57 Usman Khawaja (Australia)
47.25 Joe Root (England)
47.00 Alastair Cook (England)
42.55 Dawid Malan (England)
41.50 Pat Cummins (Australia)
Australia 2-1 England
5-43 James Anderson (England), second Test
5-48 Josh Hazlewood (Australia), third Test
5-88 Mitchell Starc (Australia), second Test
LEADING WICKET TAKERS - min 10 wickets
23 Pat Cummins (Australia)
22 Mitchell Starc (Australia)
21 Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
21 Nathan Lyon (Australia)
17 James Anderson (England)
11 Stuart Broad (England)
10 Chris Woakes (England)
BOWLING AVERAGES - min five wickets
23.54 Mitchell Starc (Australia)
24.65 Pat Cummins (Australia)
25.90 Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
27.82 James Anderson (England)
29.23 Nathan Lyon (Australia)
37.66 Craig Overton (England)
47.72 Stuart Broad (England)
49.50 Chris Woakes (England)
115.00 Moeen Ali (England)
662-9d Australia in the third Test, Perth
649-7d Australia in the fifth Test, Sydney
491 England in the fourth Test, Melbourne
442-8d Australia in the second Test, Adelaide (D/N)
403 England in the third Test, Perth
346 England in the fifth Test, Sydney
328 Australia in the first Test, Brisbane
327 Australia in the fourth Test, Melbourne
302 England in the first Test, Brisbane
263-4d Australia in the fourth Test, Melbourne
233 England in the second Test, Adelaide (D/N)
227 England in the second Test, Adelaide (D/N)
218 England in the third Test, Perth
195 England in the first Test, Brisbane
180 England in the fifth Test, Sydney
173-0 Australia in the first Test, Brisbane
138 Australia in the second Test, Adelaide (D/N)