Australia's cup of woe fills up
Australia's most agonising week in recent memory, when they lost four successive games including the stunning defeat against Bangladesh, has elicited outrage from the media back home. After a long time, a team that has swaggered to series wins found themselves in the firing line, with words like "disgraced" and "humiliated" employed to describe their displays.
"Disgraceful on the field. Disgrace off it," wrote The Sydney Morning Herald. "Australia's world champion cricketers are hanging their heads in shame after a five-wicket one-day loss to Bangladesh, the worst team in international cricket."
After the disaster on Saturday, when Bangladesh pulled off arguably the biggest upset in cricketing history, there were further problems on Sunday as Australia were undone by a combination of Steve Harmison's pace and Kevin Pietersen's hurricane 91. "The threat posed by the long-limbed fast bowler Steve Harmison to Australia was underlined yesterday when he marked the first serious tangle between the Ashes opponents by tearing through the visitors top order," said The Melbourne Age. "So much for the Australian batsmen firing an early warning before the Tests to Harmison."
The Australian was equally fiery in its analysis and felt that the team had every reason to worry. "Having dismissed complacency and arrogance as the reason behind the catastrophic loss to Bangladesh, Australia captain Ricky Ponting is faced with the worrying reality his once-mighty team is in the middle of a mystifying form slump." The Courier Mail took it one step further and added, "Australia's world champion cricketers were left embarrassed and shocked after suffering arguably the worst defeat in the sport's rich history, losing to Bangladesh."
Since the start of 2004, Australia have won 30 of their 41 ODIs and experienced only a minor blip or two on this rampant journey. But two defeats in as many days, following two more - in the Twenty20 game and against Somerset - have exposed most of the frailties in the side, which many regard as over-the-hill and jaded.
The English media, by contrast, have reacted with universal astonishment, and it is only now, after Australia's fourth defeat in a row, that anyone is truly daring to break ranks and suggest that this is more than merely a temporary blip.
"Australia are now officially in disarray," wrote Mike Selvey in The Guardian, while Christopher Martin-Jenkins, in The Times, allowed himself a rare unguarded moment in an otherwise straight-laced interpretation of England's victory in Bristol. "If Harmison bowls as fast and rhythmically as he did yesterday," intoned CMJ, "England will win the Ashes." Now that is a big call.
As ever, though, it was the English tabloids that caught the changing mood best, with The News of the World echoing the words of that excitable commentator after England's 1981 World Cup defeat against Norway: "Don Bradman, Rolf Harris, Crocodile Dundee, Thorpedo, Dame Edna Everage," ranted the banner headline. "Your boys took one hell of a battering!"