'We've been totally outplayed' - Lehmann
On a day when Misbah-ul-Haq plundered the joint fastest Test hundred, Australia were set 603 for victory, Glenn Maxwell became an ex-factor at No.3, Michael Clarke continued his lean 2014, and Brad Haddin stayed off the field with a bung shoulder, one sight must have worried Australian fans more than most. It was the team walking on after lunch with no Mitchell Johnson in sight, kept indoors by pain in his left hip.
Haddin and Johnson were hard to split as Australia's best players in last summer's Ashes triumph. Already, there are question-marks over Haddin's availability for the home Tests against India, and nightmarish visions of a Johnson-less attack were hard to avoid when he failed to take the field. But that was at least one concern the coach Darren Lehmann could play down at the end of an otherwise dismal day for Australia.
"He's fine, he just got some treatment and then they declared," Lehmann said. "It was a case of not really bowling but he'll be fine. Some medical term I don't know about."
If Lehmann was unclear on exactly what was wrong with Johnson, he is in no such uncertainty over what has ailed Australia in this series. And he was giving little away when asked whether members of the top order including Chris Rogers and Alex Doolan would be part of the side for Australia's next Test, which begins on December 4 at the Gabba against India.
The bowlers earned some sympathy from Lehmann due to their having to work in such unresponsive conditions. He was not so benevolent to the batsmen.
"Our top-order batting, basically the top six, haven't made enough runs," he said. "That's as simple as it gets for us. It would have been nice to win one of the tosses and see how they would have performed early on in the game and see the shoe on the other foot if you like.
"We certainly haven't produced the goods in this series. They haven't allowed us, either. They've played very well. I don't think we've won a session in this Test match and maybe only dare I say two in the last Test match. So we've been totally outplayed. We've got to learn and get better."
Lehmann was not part of the Australian setup when they were thrashed 4-0 in India last year, but he was in charge when England won the Ashes on slow surfaces in England. This series, which will almost certainly become a 2-0 hiding on Monday, has continued Australia's seemingly inexorable slide in conditions they find alien.
Their next series is at home and it is likely that they will again be threatening with the ball and their batsmen will similarly enjoy the pace coming on to the bat. But who will those batsmen be? The No.3 position is the major question after Doolan was dropped for the Abu Dhabi Test to accommodate Maxwell.
Doolan was the incumbent, but has failed to really grab his four chances at Test level. Phillip Hughes has been with the squad as backup and could comfortably slot in at first drop at the Gabba. But there is also the issue of a Shane Watson return, and giving him the No.3 position might solve two problems; they could then retain Mitchell Marsh, who has batted with real fight in Abu Dhabi.
"We discussed the whole selection issue for this Test match and trying to get the right balance," Lehmann said. "Speaking to [chairman of selectors] Rodney Marsh and the captain Michael Clarke and making sure we have enough options to play the brand we needed to try to level the series. [Maxwell] played really well in the first innings until he got out to probably not a great shot.
"So it's more of a point of him understanding what his role was and he didn't achieve the runs we would have liked. We've just got to get back to Australia and work out what our best six is. But for this particular game that's the way we went."
"There's a lot of options for us. We spoke to [Doolan] straight away. It was a tough call and a tight call. You've got to make sure you're being open and honest with all the players. Rodney [Marsh] does all that and we speak to him and make sure we've got a clear route for him to go to Brisbane. From our point of view it's a case of him going back and making some runs."
Doolan is not the only batsman who will be aiming to return to Sheffield Shield cricket and post some runs ahead of the first India Test. Rogers will not be part of the one-day series against South Africa and will have three Shield matches for Victoria before the Gabba Test. Asked if at 37 Rogers could afford a lean series as he has had in the UAE, Lehmann said runs, not age, were all that mattered.
"From my point of view he's had a good 12 months," Lehmann said. "You're talking about age, but at the end of the day we want performances from all our batsmen regardless of age. He'd be disappointed with his output in the two Test matches. So again it's going back to Shield cricket and getting some runs and then see whether he's in Brisbane or not."
Lehmann's phrasing suggests there is a possibility Rogers might not be at the Gabba, but that would be a very tough call on a man who was the leading run scorer from either side across the home and away Ashes campaigns of last year. And Rogers is far from the only one struggling; unless a centurion emerged on the final day in Abu Dhabi, Warner would be Australia's only batsman to score a hundred in the series.
Most significantly, Clarke has had a difficult year with the bat. In the UAE he has made 2, 3, 47 and 5, and only once has he passed fifty from his most recent 17 Test innings. Lehmann said Clarke was hurting as much as every player in the side.
"We're absolutely disappointed with the way we've played, no doubt about that, from support staff, captain, players right down, we're all hurting," he said. "Yes, it is disappointing where we are at at the moment. But the sun will come up tomorrow. We've got to get better at the game of cricket and we're certainly not better at it at the moment."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale