Aussies lose final Test, Ashes drawn 2-2
Australia's disappointing 135-run loss and a drawn series proved a somewhat underwhelming end to Tim Paine's first Ashes tour but the captain remained proud to be returning home with the urn.
England's consolatory victory in the fifth Test at the Oval, sealed when they set an imposing target of 399 early on day four then rolled Australia for 263 despite Matthew Wade's gutsy knock of 117, means the series finished 2-2.
Paine's team became the first Australian outfit in 18 years to arrive in England and return home with the urn, comfortably the greatest achievement of his career.
But, having followed an epic victory at Old Trafford with their worst performance of the five Tests, Australia's quest for their first Ashes series win in England since 2001 will continue until at least 2023.
The touring party had a customary champagne shower on stage then later shared beers with England's squad in the rooms at the Oval, swapping stories after the most heated match of the series.
Paine, whose Decision Review System (DRS) "nightmare" ended with an unsuccessful referral after being trapped lbw by Jack Leach, admitted to some regrets in the series finale but took a big-picture view.
"We're bringing the urn home and that's what we came here to do. We're thrilled by that," Paine said.
"A little disappointed by this game, obviously it's put a bit of a dampener on it.
"It's still a bit close to a loss to be absolutely thrilled about what happened.
"But when you put it in perspective of what we have done in the past 12 months, I think as a group ... we can be proud.
"Had you said we were taking the urn home (prior to the series) then we would have jumped at it."
Steve Smith fell for 23, his lowest score since the Cape Town cheating scandal that prompted Cricket Australia to appoint Paine skipper.
Wade lifted the score from 4-85 to 7-260 while threatening to drag the contest into its final day.
The Tasmanian was stumped off the bowling of Joe Root before England's captain grabbed two catches in the next over to wrap up victory at 6.10pm (local time) on Sunday.
Paine's decision to bowl first, when coach Justin Langer and personal mentor Ricky Ponting were among those regarding it as a bat-first pitch, was the first of many turning points.
A stack of dropped catches and sloppy dismissals then put England in the box seat for victory.
"I've got a couple (of regrets). Probably start with the toss," Paine said.
"England outplayed us. I feel a bit sorry for our bowlers, they were fantastic all series, created plenty of chances on day one and we just didn't back them up."
Stuart Broad claimed the prized scalp of Smith to finish with 4-62, while Leach cleaned up the tail in a haul of 4-49.
"It (2-2) is probably a fair result if you look at the whole series," Root said.
© AAP 2019