Greg Chappell could not do it, while Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, who had both had two attempts each, were unable to manage it either.
But if his side avoid defeat in the fifth Test against England at The Oval starting Thursday, Tim Paine will join the list of Australia captains who have led the team to an Ashes series win in England.
It is a feat no Australia captain has achieved since Steve Waugh oversaw a 4-1 success 18 years ago.
Waugh, like Chappell, Ponting and Clarke, is one of Australia’s greatest cricketers.
No one, least of all wicketkeeper Paine himself, would suggest he is in that class and the way in which he inherited the captaincy was highly unusual.
Traditionally, Australia have picked their best 11 players first and then opted for one of them as captain, while in England, where there has long been an emphasis on ‘leadership qualities’, the tendency has been to select the skipper first and then find 10 others to join him.
Paine’s case was different. Following the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town in March 2018 that saw Steve Smith stripped of the captaincy and David Warner removed from the post of vice-captain — with both batsmen subsequently given 12-month bans by Cricket Australia — officials needed someone uncontaminated by the incident to lead the team and turned to Paine the morning after ‘Sandpapergate’.
Paine, who had made his Australia debut in a Test against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, had been on the brink of retiring from cricket in 2017 and taking up a job with an equipment manufacturer instead.
But having forced his way back into the side, the Tasmanian found himself thrust into the captaincy barely a year later.
Ever since becoming skipper, Paine has face accusations that he is both an “accidental” skipper and not worth his place in the side.
But having shown dignity after a dramatic one-wicket loss in the third Test at Headingley, Paine had the satisfaction of leading the team to an 185-run win at Old Trafford on Sunday that ensured they retained the Ashes at 2-1 up with just one to play.