Ashes 2013-2014: Australia thrash England to go 4-0 up
|Fourth Test, Melbourne (day four)|
|England 255 & 179 lost to Australia 204 & 231-2 by eight wickets|
Australia made it four wins out of four and moved closer to an Ashes whitewash with a dominant eight-wicket victory over England with a day to spare in Melbourne.
Led by an unruffled 116 from opener Chris Rogers and aided by three missed catches, they knocked off the remaining 201 runs they needed by mid-afternoon on a day that became a stroll in the Melbourne sunshine.
England had begun with hope of summoning up the spirit of 1998, when they bowled out Australia for just 162 on this ground to win by 12 runs.
Instead they created very little and blew what chances they did have as Australia, led home by the unbeaten Shane Watson (83) and Michael Clarke (six), cruised to the biggest fourth-innings target at this ground in 51 years.
With the final Test in Sydney starting in four days' time and England having been dismantled in every match so far, the odds on a 5-0 scoreline to match that of seven years ago must now be short.
What could have been a thrilling final battle was instead by the end an annihilation, another black day in a series of almost unremitting gloom for the shambolic tourists.
Midway through the third day here at the MCG, England had led by 116 runs with all 10 second innings wickets in hand.
But they ended this game once again hammered by a huge margin, unable to even get close to a side they beat 3-0 just four months ago.
Rogers played with calm authority on his adopted home ground as he steered his team to their target, his second Test century making him the sixth Australian in this series to make a hundred.
The 36-year-old was dropped twice en route, once on 19 by Alastair Cook at first slip from a catch that wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow should have claimed, and again on 81 when Bairstow failed to get a glove on a low chance to his left.
But he played beautifully, picking up eight boundaries behind square on the off side as he used the pace of the ball to glide run after run away to third man.
England had begun hoping for an early wicket to give them a chance of salvaging a win from the wreckage of the series so far.
But after Rogers' escape Cook then dropped the most straightforward chance a first slip could want off David Warner with the score on 53, and although Ben Stokes had the opener caught behind when he had made 25, there was never any prospect of more following soon after.
Cook made some curious captaincy decisions - taking off his best bowler, Stuart Broad, after only two overs, giving occasional off-spinner Joe Root a spell before turning to his specialist option Monty Panesar - and had to watch several poor mis-fields as Watson went on the attack.
Rogers was caught behind off Panesar with 31 needed but Watson thumped away in muscular fashion, crashing 12 boundaries, while Clarke went past 8,000 Test runs with the target only a few big blows away.
The end came at just before 2.30pm on the fourth day when Watson hoisted Panesar over midwicket in front of a celebrating Bay 13.
In an Ashes that has brought daily disappointment for England, this was perhaps the most painful defeat of all.
The losses in the first three Tests were one-sided affairs, but here at the MCG they had been in apparent control and favourites for victory. Yet they found a way to lose, and it will take a performance far superior to anything they have found on tour to escape the whitewash in the New Year.