Australia's mission to take Graeme Swann ''out of the equation'' paid off in astonishing fashion when England's star spinner abruptly retired, becoming the second senior player to quit the Ashes tour with a third in grave doubt for the Boxing Day Test.
Swann, one of England's greatest spinners, shocked his teammates on Sunday morning by retiring from international cricket, effective immediately, forsaking the chance to play in Melbourne and Sydney.
The 34-year-old's decision leaves the touring team in disarray as it tries to avoid a 5-0 series whitewash after losing key batsman Jonathan Trott to a stress-related illness after the Brisbane Test.
Fast bowler Stuart Broad hobbled on his bruised foot at training on Sunday and is battling to be fit for the fourth Test.
A subdued Swann said it would have been selfish to carry on for the remainder of the Ashes knowing he was no longer capable of bowling England to victory.
''My body doesn't like playing long forms of cricket any more. My arm doesn't cope very well with bowling 30 or 40 overs in the first innings and then repeating it in the second innings,'' said Swann, who had surgery on his bowling elbow in March.
''I could feel my performances tapering off to the back end of games and I wasn't happy with that. I'm not willing to hang on and get by just being a bit-part player. I want to be a guy who wins matches for England and I wasn't doing that in the second innings any more. As a result, it's time to go.''
Australian coach Darren Lehmann, while paying tribute to Swann, said it had always been the home side's intention to hit him out of the attack.
''We had a plan for him in England and didn't execute it as well,'' he said. ''So we changed things around for him a little bit. But he's a big player when you've only got four bowlers - now they've got five with all-rounder [Ben] Stokes in their side - so you only have to take one or two of them out of the equation and make their quicks bowl more. That was certainly a plan from us.
''He's been a great bowler for England and he's obviously decided enough is enough, and to move forward in his life.''
The timing of Swann's retirement raises questions about the morale of the touring team, and leaves Monty Panesar to fill the spinner's role in Melbourne and Sydney.
Swann denied the Australians' targeting of his off-spin had contributed to his decision. He said he made up his mind halfway through the Perth Test, where Australia clinched the urn and his final over conceded 22 runs, all blasted down the ground by Shane Watson.
Swann was the leading wickettaker in England's 3-0 Ashes win in England, but managed just seven wickets in this series at an average of 80. It was a tame end for a spinner who has taken 255 Test wickets at 29.96. Only Derek Underwood has taken more wickets with spin for England.
''They had the same game plan in England and it didn't work, but I was bowling better in England,'' Swann said. ''People should attack spin bowlers; the fact I haven't been able to counter it on this trip is because I haven't been bowling consistently well enough, and towards the back end of a game I don't feel I can do the job I should be doing for England.''
Swann said it was time for England to rebuild and admitted other veterans might follow him into retirement.
Matt Prior, who could be replaced by Jonny Bairstow for the fourth Test, Jimmy Anderson and Kevin Pietersen are all over 30.
''It's no secret that a lot of other guys are getting on a bit, maybe a couple more will follow,'' Swann said.
''I certainly haven't spoken to anyone else about that. I have spoken to Jimmy and he's not doing it. Sport is cyclical and you do have to have new blood coming in. Ben Stokes showed last week what a great player he is and I think he is a player you could build a team around.
''The England team will be very strong. We've not been strong on this tour and that's a result of a lot of the senior players being in pretty appalling form all at the same time. It's almost the roles reversed from the last time.''
Lehmann refused to speculate on the state of England's dressing room, except to remark that Australia's morale was strong.
Mitchell Johnson has led the effort to unsettle England with his raw pace and awkward ''throat balls'', while spearing a yorker into Broad's foot at the WACA Ground.
''We can't worry about England. I'm sure they weren't worried about us last time,'' he said.
''Our point of view is to play the brand of cricket to win us cricket games and obviously it has been quite aggressive out there from both sides. It's good, hard Ashes cricket. To have two senior guys not play, that might be an advantage, but also younger guys get a chance.''