It took until the last day of the series but England finally dismissed Steve Smith cheaply as the hosts won the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval by 135 runs.
Set 399 for victory, Australia’s hopes of a backs-to-the-wall triumph nosedived when Smith was well caught at leg gully off Stuart Broad for 23.
And although Matthew Wade made an excellent 117, his second hundred of the series, he lacked support as England recorded a comfortable victory that saw the five-Test series finish at 2-2.
Australia had already retained the Ashes, with England needing to win the series to reclaim cricket’s famous urn.
It is the first time Australia has retained the Ashes on foreign soil since 2001 and captain Tim Paine lifted the urn in celebration with his teammates to cap the end of a thrilling series.
The celebrations were not as joyous as they might have been, given they followed a defeat, but Paine still signalled the moment as a “huge deal” for Australian sport.
“There’s no doubt today puts a bit of a dampener on it – there’s some mixed emotions,” he said at the presentation.
“There’s some great learnings out of the whole Ashes series for us but I think from where this group has come from, to come to England, retain the Ashes, [it] is still a huge deal.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of. I think we’ve played some fantastic cricket throughout but as I said I think we’ve got some improvement and some learning to do and I think that’s a great thing for us.”
Smith was unsurprisingly named as player of the series for his 774 runs in just seven innings at an incredible average of 110.57.
“I’ve loved every minute and [am] really proud I have been able to perform for Australia and help bring the urn home,” he said.
When Smith lifted the urn after the 2017-18 Ashes series, in the background was a giant Australia hand with four fingers held up. Another hand, with the St George cross on it, had a clenched fist.
It was a take on the 4-0 scoreline and England responded with a banner that read ‘Specsavers Ashes Series, Series Drawn 2019’ behind the Australian players as Paine lifted the urn.
The moment we've been waiting for! Australia lift the urn on English soil.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) September 15, 2019
This followed Paine and England captain Joe Root each holding one half of a series trophy.
Australia are sure to be the happier of the two sides, though, with the evenness of the series setting up a much-anticipated return bout Down Under in the 2021/22 summer.
And Wade was the big winner from day four, the batsman likely to have confirmed his spot for the start of this year’s home Test summer after coming out on top in a thrilling battle with England’s Jofra Archer.
Archer was at the crease as England resumed on 8-313 but he was dismissed in the second over of the day for three as Australia finally got a review right, replays showing the paceman gloved a Pat Cummins (2-67) ball to Paine.
Broad then walloped two sixes before Nathan Lyon (4-69) dismissed Jack Leach for nine as England was bowled out for 329.
Australia’s opening partnerships throughout the Ashes were abysmal and it took just five overs for England to strike, Broad (4-62) bowling Marcus Harris for nine.
Broad then got David Warner for the seventh time this series, caught in the slips by Rory Burns for 11, ensuring the opener finished the Ashes with just 95 runs in 10 hits.
And Australia’s misery was compounded when Marnus Labuschagne also fell before lunch, stumped off Leach for 14, as the tourists reached the break at 3-68.
Smith then fell once play resumed as an England set-play worked to perfection, Ben Stokes taking an excellent diving catch at leg gully.
Wade upped the tempo and took Leach for three successive fours, while Marsh, who edged to Burns, got a reprieve when Chris Woakes (0-19) overstepped.
Wade and Marsh added 63 runs for the fifth wicket until the latter fell to the part-time spin of Joe Root (2-26) and Paine also fell after getting a start when he was lbw to Leach for 21.
Losing partners at a steady rate, Wade continued to fight on, a fierce battle with Archer – who was bowling sharply and trading words and stares with the batsman – pushing the Australian on.
And he reached his fourth Test century with a single off Broad before watching Cummins depart for nine.
It was Wade’s turn to go next, stumped off Root, and Lyon and Josh Hazlewood then fell in successive Leach deliveries to cap England’s victory.