Cricket: Australia revels in release of Ashes frustration

MELBOURNE - Group-hugs and beery celebrations for the retrieval of the Ashes were splashed all over Australian newspapers on Wednesday, as the nation hailed a cricket team that only weeks before was regarded largely with derision.

Australia routed England by 150 runs in Perth on Tuesday to seal the five-test series 3-0 and win back the small terracotta urn that symbolises one of the world's oldest sporting rivalries.

Australia regards no other trophy as more important and takes no more relish in defeating any other opponent than their former colonial masters, so the exorcism of four years of pent-up frustration since losing the Ashes in England in 2009 was front page news in all the major dailies.

"We got 'em back!" Melbourne's The Age trumpeted under a souvenir masthead featuring a picture of Australia's pint-sized opening batsman David Warner leaping into a group hug by the side of the WACA pitch.

Australia's win ended a run of three successive series victories by England, and was a stunning turnaround from the 3-0 loss in the northern Ashes completed in August.

Greg Baum, one of The Age's chief columnists, regarded the hosts' revival as being touched by the divine."This was a miracle, if not on the Lourdes scale, the Lord's scale," he wrote."In the first leg of this unprecedented double Ashes series in England four months ago, England won 3-0. If that margin flattered England, the idea of reversing it in the return series instantly was preposterous."

The paper's cricket writer Malcolm Knox was also misty-eyed as he pondered a timely victory for some of the elder statesmen in the Australian team, who include opening batsman Chris Rogers and fellow 36-year-old wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

A number of the other players, including captain Michael Clarke, rejuvenated paceman Mitchell Johnson and 34-year-old seamer Ryan Harris, "... have, as cricketers, a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows," Knox wrote.

"They are a mature team with only the present to play for.The overwhelming margin of their victories against a team that tormented them just a few months ago is one of those examples of why it's called cricket, wonderful cricket."

Another picture of a leaping Warner dominated the front page of Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper under the headline "It's ours!", the celebration leaving only an inch of space for the daily to plug their special report on "The Nation's $666b (billion) debt devil".

Clarke was draped in the national flag on the back, with his arm around coach Darren Lehmann, who was universally lauded as one of the key architects of Australia's triumph.

"Lehmann has become renowned as the man who puts a smile on his players' faces and his style was seen as a direct contrast to England coach Andy Flower, who has the bearing of a military major," Robert Craddock wrote of the laid-back 43-year-old who took over from the sacked Mickey Arthur just before the northern Ashes.

Prominent cricket writer Gideon Haigh praised Australia's fortitude to win a "glittering prize from an annus horribilis" featuring seven losses and two draws from the nine tests that preceded this series. "So how to sum up Australia's advance, then?" he wrote.

"Perhaps that an always fairly good team has counteracted a tendency at times to play really badly."

"Where in England such (vulnerable) positions became routs, this summer they have been turned into defensive fortifications."

"Wins have been instigated in the first instance by not losing."