SYDNEY- Australia are on the brink of a 5-0 Ashes cleansweep after demolishing England’s batting line-up on Saturday, with the hapless tourists able to muster just 155 runs in the face of hostile pace bowling in Sydney.
Australia’s pace trio of Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle took three wickets apiece as England narrowly avoided the follow-on on the second day of the final Test in response to Australia’s first innings score of 326.
The tourists never recovered from a disastrous morning session when they crashed to 23 for five despite valiant efforts from young guns Ben Stokes, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow and it was the fifth time England had been bowled out for less than 200 in the series.
Stokes eked out a dogged 47 off 101 balls after his his six-wicket haul in the Australian first innings.
But he showed an error of judgement that cost his wicket when he offered no shot and was bowled off-stump by Siddle just three short of his half-century.
It was Siddle’s second wicket of his 12th over after having wicketkeeper Bairstow caught by George Bailey, purposefully positioned at short mid-on, for 18, ending a 49-run stand with Stokes.
Debutant Ballance earlier went in the second over after lunch for 18, caught behind off spinner Nathan Lyon.
Ballance showed plenty of fight coming to wicket with his team in dire trouble at 17-4. He took a Mitchell Johnson bouncer flush on the helmet and needed replacement headgear.
England suffered yet another demoralising top-order collapse in the morning session against the dominant Australians, as they slipped inexorably towards defeat.
At one stage the beleaguered tourists looked in danger of falling short of their record low score of 45 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, set in 1887, but Zimbabwe-born Ballance and Stokes helped stop the rot to leave England 61-5 at lunch.
Alastair Cook (7) was out to the second ball of the day when the skipper was trapped leg before wicket by Harris without offering a shot.
Ian Bell was dropped by Shane Watson off the next ball but nightwatchman James Anderson, who needed treatment after taking a jarring blow on his right bowling hand fending off a rearing Johnson delivery, did not last long.
He edged Johnson to Michael Clarke at second slip for seven, leaving the tourists 14-3 in the 10th over.
Johnson now has 34 wickets for the series as he bids to become only the fourth Australian bowler to take 40 wickets or more in an Ashes series along with Terry Alderman (twice), Rodney Hogg and Shane Warne.
The Australians, looking to claim only the third 5-0 series whitewash in Ashes history, followed up with the wicket of Kevin Pietersen (3), snapped up in the slips by Watson off Harris, to leave the tourists 17-4.
Bell was then out for two, caught behind by Brad Haddin off Peter Siddle to make it 23-5.