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Former Hampshire batsman Michael Clarke hails Australian heroes
1:44pm Sunday 5th January 2014 in Sport
Australia captain Michael Clarke hailed his team's ''fantastic achievement'' to win back the Ashes 5-0.
Former Hampshire batsman Clarke spoke of his pride after the same 11 players who lost 3-0 in England less than five months ago completed a clean sweep on home soil.
Australia's 281-run trouncing of the tourists at the SCG completed an utter domination of the series on the back of Mitchell Johnson's 37 wickets and the runs of Brad Haddin and David Warner, among others.
Clarke has therefore become the only cricketer to twice figure in 5-0 Ashes victories, having been part of the 2006-07 team as well.
He declined to nominate one whitewash as his favourite, but said in victory this time: ''It's extremely special, for a number of reasons.
''(For) the same XI (to play in each Test) is obviously a fantastic achievement and a lot of credit has to go to the support stuff and the medical staff.''
Australia's success this winter is all the more remarkable after their own series defeats, without a single Test victory in India and then England last year.
''It's been a rollercoaster ride in 2013 to get us to where we are today ... this is a great start to 2014,'' added Clarke.
''The start of (2013) certainly didn't go anywhere near as well as we would have liked, and I think that's probably what feels so satisfying at the moment ... that we've been able to turn things round.
''I couldn't be prouder of my team-mates.''
Johnson, who produced some of the fastest spells in cricket history and regularly left England's innings in tatters, was named man of the series.
''I hate to say I told you all so ... but I told you all so,'' said his captain.
''(He's) man of the series. Who would have thought? Except me, and probably Mitch.
''He's been an amazing bowler for a long time.''
Johnson is in the form of his life, but has come through many tough times too - notably when his bowling became a laughing stock among the travelling English support during the tourists' 3-1 win here in 2010-11.
Clarke put the left-armer's Ashes performance this time in an elite bracket.
''Mitch has bowled a couple of spells through this series that are, without doubt, as good as I've ever seen in my career - and I've been lucky enough to play with Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Shane Warne,'' he said.
''Mitch's spells certainly match the greats ... throughout this series, if not better.
''He deserves all the credit and accolades he receives. He's copped a lot of criticism, been dropped from the team ... and shows his character.
''No one in the world can doubt Mitchell Johnson's character ever again. He's as tough a cricketer as I've played with.''
Clarke was full of praise too for Johnson's fellow seamers Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, and off-spinner Nathan Lyon - who between them so rarely gave England any respite.
''I said to the boys before a ball was bowled in this series, in my opinion they are the greatest attack in the world at the moment - and I think they've just shown it over five Test matches.''
Johnson shocked England from the outset with nine wickets on a bouncy Gabba pitch in the first Test.
He said: ''I was quite nervous at the start - for good reason, I guess, after what's happened in the past.
''But they were good nerves ... and having the support of Michael ... it really did set the tone for the whole series in that first Test match.''
Clarke has maintained throughout, despite the ease of Australia's victories, that he expects Alastair Cook's England to recover.
He still does, but added some food for thought perhaps in the opposition camp as he traced Australia's improvement - following their hardship in India, and the subsequent sacking of coach Mickey Arthur and his replacement with Darren Lehmann.
''They've been a very successful team over a long period of time, because they've got some wonderful players - and I'm sure they'll bounce back,'' he said.
''Losing 4-0 in India was extremely tough (for us) to deal with.
''As hard as it is to look back on it, I think that tough time was what turned this team around.
''It made us say 'we can't continue to do this - we've got to make change, individually'.
''That was the time we said 'enough is enough - we've got to turn things around'.
''I think we did that. Guys' attitudes changed.''
As for Lehmann's impact, he added: '''Boof' has played a big part, in allowing us to play with freedom, and ... that is by the environment that is created before you even walk out on to the field.''
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