PERTH: Australia won back the Ashes after bowling England out cheaply despite rain delays and a pitch controversy to secure an innings win on the final day of the third Test in Perth on Monday.
Having confirmed his status as the world’s best batsman with a match-winning double century, Steve Smith added victorious Ashes captain to his ever-expanding resume as England were dismissed for 218 in their second innings in the last Ashes Test to take place at the WACA Ground.
That gave the home side an innings-and-41-run win and an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series, having won the opening two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide.
Pat Cummins secured the famous urn for the home side when he had Chris Woakes caught behind for 22, prompting Australian celebrations.
But while it was a comfortable win, there was high drama on the final day courtesy of yet another WACA pitch controversy.
Victory seemed assured for Australia when they had England 132 for four at the conclusion of the fourth day, still 127 runs behind with Australia yet to bat again, but a rain-damaged pitch threatened to end the match without a ball being bowled on the final day.
Showers had caused play to be abandoned early on the fourth day and they continued through to Monday morning, forcing a scheduled early resumption to be cancelled, with Australia needing just six more wickets to win the match and regain the Ashes.
Complicating matters further was a damp spot on the pitch, just outside the popping crease at the southern end of the ground.
WACA staff worked furiously with leaf blowers to try to dry the patch out as more showers passed through and the covers came on and off at regular intervals throughout the morning.
How the water got onto the wicket was unclear, although there was speculation it might have been linked to strong winds lifting the covers.
But umpires Chris Gaffaney and Marais Erasmus would not allow play to resume until they believed the pitch had been returned to the same condition as at the end of day four.
Play did not get under way until after lunch, and even then to the chagrin of an English camp who felt the conditions were dangerous.
England’s batsmen also had to contend with balls jagging violently off cracks on the pitch in a contentious end to 47 years of Ashes cricket at the WACA Ground.
Wickets tumbled quickly for England upon the delayed resumption, with overnight batsman and first-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow bowled for 14 by the first delivery he faced for the day from Josh Hazlewood, which kept low.
Hazlewood removed England’s last hope Dawid Malan — who backed up his first innings century with a fighting 54 before being caught behind — to finish with figures of 5-48.
Malan’s first day heroics, when England appeared to be in a dominant position at 368-4 from which an innings defeat would be almost impossible, seemed a distant memory as he trudged from the field.