Australia's Ashes fallout August 26, 2009

Nielsen wonders where it all went wrong

Tim Nielsen, the Australia coach, has begun the soul-searching after his side's Ashes defeat, wondering what he could have done differently while trying to convince himself everything possible was ticked off. On the last tour Nielsen's old mentor John Buchanan suffered the same result, but this crop's loss was harder to deal with due to the sudden late turnaround.

Back in 2005 the defeat was sensed weeks out from The Oval. Until Australia's collapse of 10 for 87 last Friday, Ricky Ponting's men were convinced they would take the Ashes in south London, win or draw. A couple of days on and Nielsen is analysing his responsibility in the result.

"I take a lot of it," he said as the team sped by train from London to Edinburgh for Friday's one-dayer against Scotland. "I feel as though maybe there are things I could have done. Were they well enough prepared mentally before the game? We hope we talk about all of those different scenarios so they're ready for them when they happen. Did we have a plan in place, a mindset in place that allowed them to adapt and cope with continual loss of wickets?"

So many questions with answers that are probably 'no'. It was the crucial moments, at Lord's and The Oval, where both the young and experienced members of the side failed. On Sunday, while the hosts partied, the visitors were beginning the glum reflections.

"In the end that's what my role is, I'm not running away from that," Nielsen said. "I understand that my job is to support and set up the team as well as they can be so they play their best, and we didn't play our best. There's got to be something missing.

"That's what the last couple of days have been for me, searching for that answer or trying to find in my own mind what I could have done better or where we could have done things differently to ensure a different result."

In this part of the Ashes cycle there is less than a year and a half before the chance for revenge comes at home in 2010-11. However, it is an age before Australia can attempt to erase their misfortune in England.

"For me it was definitely a feeling of opportunity lost," Nielsen said. "You don't know where you'll be in four years' time, we don't know who will be around, you don't know what injuries will occur, or what could happen in your world. That means you need to grab these opportunities when they present, that's the biggest thing that's burning me at the moment. We had our chance and we didn't quite nail it."

All the players are feeling the pain, particularly as they see - or try to ignore - the joy in the faces of the England players and their supporters. "People are going to cop it in different ways and process it in different ways," he said. "Some of the young blokes probably woke up and, while it hurts, it would never have the hurt as say a Ponting or a Clarke or a Katich, who have gone through it all before, or a Lee. They may think: 'Geez that's two times now.' That starts to ram it home a little bit.

"It's going to chew at you for as long as you let it - that's the challenge, not to let it become all-consuming. We can't change it now, we can't fix it, we've got to live with it."

On Monday night the Test specialists left London and the following day the squad travelled to Scotland for their only warm-up before the nine limited-overs matches against England, beginning with a Twenty20 in Manchester on Sunday. "It's not going to be any retribution or anything like that," Nielsen said. "We've got a World Cup in 18 months so we're really looking forward towards that, and we've also got the Champions Trophy in South Africa on the back end of this tour." None of those tournaments mean as much as the Ashes.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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