PHOTOS: Australia win the Ashes in Perth
Wednesday 18 Dec 2013 11:30 a.m.
Michael Clarke, Darren Lehmann and the Australia squad linked arms and sang their team songs on the WACA pitch a few hours after regaining the Ashes with a series-clinching third Test win.
The flinty glares and the abrasive demeanour gave way to laughing, rejoicing, tears and, of course for the Aussie team, beers.
The turnaround from a 3-0 series loss in England in August to a 3-0 win with two matches to spare here has been remarkable. The comprehensive manner of those wins, by 381, 218 and 150 runs, has stunned an England team that had won the previous three Ashes series and hadn't lost a Test in 12 months before arriving in Australia.
Clarke attributed it to hard work. Some local critics suggested some of Australia's motivation stemmed from England's celebrations of the August win, when some of the players were seen urinating on the pitch after the victory at The Oval.
There was no love lost between the teams. The first Test in Brisbane included heated exchanges between Clarke and Jimmy Anderson. In the second Test, Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson and England rookie Ben Stokes had a mid-pitch collision.
On the eve of the first test in Brisbane, Clarke was so hard-nosed in his approach to the build-up that he was compared with Allan Border, who earned the nickname "Captain Grumpy" as he dragged Australian cricket out of the doldrums of the mid-1980s.
"We certainly haven't tried to be any tougher, or play any different, we know how we play our best cricket and we tried to play like that," Clarke said. "I guess over years, though, if you don't have success, if you're not performing as you'd like as an individual player or as a team, you get to a place where you get sick of losing, or sick of not getting runs, or not taking wickets.
"When you haven't won, you find a way to turn it around. Lots of dedication and lots of sacrifice ... individual players have put the team first on every occasion and that's why we sit here as winners today."
Australia was in a shambles before the last series in England. It was coming off a 4-0 series defeat in India, overshadowed by the "homeworkgate" episode when players were banned for not complying with off-field tasks, and had a terrible Champions Trophy defence, which included batsman David Warner trying to punch England counterpart Joe Root in a pub.
Mickey Arthur was fired as coach and Lehmann, a former Australian Test batsman, was rushed into the job.
Lehmann and Clarke kept saying the series in England was closer than the scoreline reflected, but few critics agreed. They concentrated on establishing a batting line-up from No. 1-7, and brought paceman Mitchell Johnson back to join the bowling attack.
The batting line-up scored more runs, save for some first-day collapses, with seven centuries in three Tests to England's one. The bowling attack was better with Johnson's outright pace complementing the consistency of Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle. Johnson has taken 23 wickets in three Tests, including man-of-the-match performances in the first two Tests when he ripped through the England line-up in some terrifying bursts.
"We brought it home. To get the Ashes back is so special because of the work these guys have put in," Clarke said. "'I'm going to enjoy 3-0 for as long as I can. I think it's very important that we celebrate together tonight and enjoy this feeling."
Clarke said another 5-0 sweep, repeating the 2006-07 performance was a consideration, but he'd worry about that in Melbourne.
"I can guarantee you there won't be any complacency," he said. "We will be 100 percent ready to go and do what we've done in the first three Test matches in preparation to win that test match."
Lehmann will encourage the team to celebrate, and join them, but then get back to business before Christmas.
He brings an element of the laconic Aussie to the job, but insists on discipline and has the respect of the players as an ex-international batsman. He has Craig McDermott back as fast bowling coach, and doesn't mind getting feedback from the likes of Shane Warne and former Australia captain Mark Taylor. He and Clarke agree it's a big, team effort.
"The atmosphere and the belief in getting the guys playing a good, attacking brand of cricket was essential for us for where we wanted to get to, and I think we've shown that in the first three Test matches," Lehmann said. "I'm really pleased with where they're at, and where they're going. The challenge is to back that up in the Boxing Day test match again."