England descended to defeat by an innings and 46 runs in the fifth Test at the Oval, leaving them as 3-2 winners of the Ashes.
But the series victory – conformed with victory at Trent Bridge earlier this month – was somewhat overshadowed after former England batsman Kevin Pietersen took to Twitter calling for Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth to be axed.
The 27-year-old has averaged just 12.77 having scored 115 runs in nine innings and faces an uncertain international future.
But Pietersen’s string of posts on the subject, culminating in a claim that he could “average more than 10 batting left-handed without pads”, struck an uneasy tone.
Alex Hales, the dynamic Nottinghamshire batsman who is being tipped to replace Lyth this winter, enjoyed a better write-up from the controversial 35-year-old.
“Lyth needs to be replaced for sure! Out of his depth! Hales needs a gig! He could open against SA (South Africa)”, wrote Pietersen, no doubt smarting from the fact that England had managed to cope without him during nthe summer after his hopes for a return to the Test arena were dashed by ECB managing director and his former captain Andrew Strauss.
“Hales gotta get a chance? He wouldn’t have averaged 10!
“And I would have averaged more than 10 batting left handed without pads!?? Swap Lyth for Hales, promote (Moeen) Ali up to (Jonny) Bairstow’s position & (Adil) Rashid in where Ali is now...”.
Pietersen returned to Surrey earlier this summer in a bid to overturn his divisive sacking by the England and Wales Cricket Board and joining Lyth for a final Ashes hurrah.
But the negatives were once again judged to outweigh any positive impact his runs might bring by his former captain Strauss.
On the pitch at the Oval, the hosts lost their last four wickets for 83 runs either side of a two-hour rain break on day four at The Oval, and were bowled out for 286.
They knew of course, irrespective of their performance in this epilogue Test, that they would be holding the urn up to a packed crowd at the conclusion.
But there was a hollower ring to celebrations for Alastair Cook’s team, after Moeen Ali was last out to Peter Siddle to confirm them significantly second-best here.
Siddle (four for 35) made the first breakthrough of an increasingly overcast day, under floodlights in his second over with the second new ball.
He beat Mark Wood’s forward prod and overturned an initial not-out lbw decision on DRS.
Jos Buttler had worked hard the previous evening, alongside Cook, to regain form in the attempted rearguard.
But he gave it all away disappointingly eight short of his 50, to the 107th ball he faced, when he chipped Mitch Marsh on the up to a tumbling mid-off.
In the match context, it was a strange mode of dismissal.
Moeen and Stuart Broad then batted for 10 overs together - long enough for the forecast rain to arrive and delay the inevitable.
But Broad lasted only five more minutes, on the resumption, bowled off-stump after missing a drive at the admirable Siddle.
The last act of an oddly uneven series then came when Moeen wafted an edge behind off the same bowler.