The Australian cricket team sent its captain Michael Clarke into international retirement with an innings and 46-run victory in the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval on Sunday.
Even so, England, who had already regained the Ashes, won the series 3-2 with Clarke the first Australian in more than a century to be on the losing side in four successive Ashes series in Britain.
When impressive paceman Peter Siddle had Moeen Ali (35) caught behind, England, following-on, had been dismissed for 286 in their second innings. Siddle, only playing after Josh Hazlewood was injured, bowled with both pace and control on his way to innings figures of four for 35 in 24.4 overs -- including 12 maidens. His return made the experienced 30-year-old seamer's omission from the previous four Tests all the more surprising.
Australia's victory on Sunday meant none of the Tests in this Ashes had gone to a fifth day -- a testament to the general lack of batting resilience in both sides. "This game sums up the series," Clarke told BBC Radio's Test Match Special. "Both teams have had a rollercoaster ride.
"The boys did as I asked, it was a test of our character and we came through it."
This series equalled the fewest days in a Test series of five or more matches of five or more scheduled days each of 18 that took place when England faced the West Indies in 2000. It also set a new record, in terms of days played, for an Ashes series of five or more matches of five or more days each.
This had stood at 19, a mark set way back in 1884/85, an era when Tests were 'timeless' and played to a finish.
Australia, after losing the toss at The Oval, piled up 481. This included captain-elect Steven Smith's 143 -- an innings which saw the eventual man-of-the-match become the first Australian to score more than 500 runs in an Ashes series in England since Matthew Elliott in 1997.
It was a far more resolute first-innings batting display than in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge where Australia collapsed to 60 all out, with Stuart Broad taking eight for 15, to set up England's Ashes-clinching innings and 78-run victory. But England captain Alastair Cook said the Oval result needed to be put into context. "The last four days haven't quite gone to plan and we're disappointed, but going into the series no one gave us a chance, so we can't let that take the gloss off a special summer," said Cook.
Play resumed on Sunday beneath grey skies and it was not long before the floodlights were switched on. The question was whether England could hold on long enough for the forecast bad weather to help them in their quest for a draw.
England started the day on 203 for six, still 129 runs behind, having suffered the blow of losing Cook late on Saturday for 85 when the left-handed opener fell to part-time leg-spinner Smith. Jos Buttler was 33 not out and nightwatchman Mark Wood nought not out.
Australia took the new ball and soon had a breakthrough when Siddle had Wood lbw for six. England's 221 for seven became 223 for eight after wicket-keeper Buttler, on 42, tamely and carelessly chipped all-rounder Marsh low to Mitchell Starc at mid-off.
Rain halted play for more than two hours but merely delayed Australia's victory.
Five minutes after the re-start, Siddle bowled Broad (11) and then dismissed Ali to ensure Australia opener Chris Rogers, also retiring after this match, ended his Test career on a winning note as well. Rogers was named Australia's man-of-the-series after scoring 480 runs at an average of 60.
"It's a bit bittersweet that we didn't win the series but it was nice to win this match and to play in Michael's last Test," said the 37-year-old Rogers. "I'm a proud Australian but England's been particularly good to me and I owe England a great deal, so it's a fitting end for me to finish here," added Rogers, a veteran of stints with several English counties.
England batsman Joe Root (460 runs at 57.50 including two hundreds) won the Compton-Miller medal as the overall player of the series. "Credit has to go to Australia - they've outplayed us in this game in all departments," said Root.
"We just had a poor couple of hours which really hurt us. We've got to make sure we learn from that."