South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 3rd day November 11, 2011

Clarke wants team to feel the pain

Nobody at Newlands will forget this Test. The 15 players in Australia's squad must try. They should learn from their terrible batting, but they must also move on. Quickly

All losses hurt. Some cause lasting damage. Michael Clarke's challenge is to make sure Australia's crushing defeat in Cape Town, which he described as the most disappointing of his career, does not leave them psychologically scarred ahead of next Thursday's second Test in Johannesburg.

This was one of the great Test matches of all time; nobody who was at Newlands on the second day, or even on the third, will forget it. The 15 players in Australia's squad must try. They should learn from their terrible batting, but they must also move on. Quickly.

It is impossible to imagine how the Australians felt on the second afternoon, when they dismissed South Africa for 96 and were then bowled out for 47, their lowest Test total in 109 years. Even Graeme Smith said it was the sort of scorecard he hadn't seen since he was a young schoolboy.

The following morning, the Australians appeared to still be in a daze. In the third over of the third day - the scheduled halfway point of the match had not even arrived - Shane Watson dropped a catch at slip and Australian shoulders slumped. They knew they were in trouble.

The pain of being humiliated with the bat increased exponentially with every boundary that rocketed off the face of Smith's bat, every delivery that was caressed through a gap by Hashim Amla.

Watson is capable of Smith-like power, so is Ricky Ponting. Clarke can find gaps like Amla, as can Michael Hussey. The pitch had not changed overnight. In the field, Australia's batsmen looked at each other quizzically. How come we didn't play like this? Nobody had the answer.

That's the mental hole the Australians must lift themselves out of before they take the field at the Wanderers next week. There could be, should be, changes to the team, but the gloomy mood will affect the whole squad, not just the XI who took the field.

"Today is going to be tough," Clarke said after the match. "If you don't feel the pain here, you'll never feel the pain and you're playing the wrong sport, for the wrong team. If there's one person in that change room with a smile on their face ... every single one of us needs to be disappointed, for good reason.

"There's also the other side that in this great game you need to find a way to get back up. Good teams do. That's how they learn and I think throughout my career, I've learnt from the not-so-good days, more than the good days. That's what I'm hoping everyone in that change room does, find something so when we get into a position like we did in that second innings with the bat, or today with the ball, we go about it in a different way."

But what made the batting performance even harder to swallow was that the major culprits included some of the most experienced members of the side. Men who, according to Clarke's theory, should already have learnt the lessons of previous dark days.

Days like July 21, 2010, when five members of the current Australian team were part of a side that was swung and seamed out for 88 against Pakistan at Headingley. Days like December 26, 2010, when nine of the men who took the field at Newlands were part of a team that was bowled out for 98 by England at the MCG.

This loss, Clarke said, topped them all.

"Probably not," Clarke said, when asked if he had played in a more disappointing defeat. "The performance with the bat, I've never experienced - not that bad, not 9 for 21. The lowest Test score ever is 26, so we needed No.10 and 11 to save our backsides there. That's unacceptable. I've never been more disappointed, in my own performance in the second innings, but the result... I'm hoping that's as poor as it gets in my career.

"Today is important. The rest of today is about looking in each other's eyes and having the courage to admit where you let yourself and the team down. We've obviously got a lot of work to do in all facets of the game to get ourselves as right as we can for this second Test. We still have a chance to level the series. That will definitely be our goal before we get on the plane back to Australia."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saksham on November 14, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    @5wombats.. Its common knowledge that everyone becomes a lion in their own backyard. The kind of dominance australia had in the past decade is next to impossible to replicate. They beat everyone. At home. Away. Everywhere. The current England team doesnt come anywhere close to that. Thay are just like India at the moment. Kings in their own backyard. When was the last time England won a test in India? Or any ODI for that matter? Agreed India fared very poorly in the summer, but being able to beat a lacklustre side in the comfort of your own backyard is nothing great to brag about.

  • Martin on November 14, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    @ayanraja - and your point, if indeed it is a point, proves what excatly? The games England played in india were just ODI/T20 games. Australia are great at ODI - doesn't mean they are great at Test matches.... india were abysmal in Tests in England. It can't be hidden from. ODI's in india prove nothing and cannot be used as an excuse for what happened in the Tests in England so stop trying.

  • john on November 14, 2011, 10:02 GMT

    Punter's time looks to be up. He is my favourite cricketer but even I admit that without a big score next test it is time to give him the nudge and allow him to graciously decide to retire.

  • Ayan on November 14, 2011, 9:37 GMT

    @5wombats ... India were as bad in England as England were in India.

  • Firdaus on November 13, 2011, 14:23 GMT

    I'm a big fan of Ponting, but even I admit that the time has come for him to say "Great, I've had an excellent career, but I just have to let Australia move on and progress". Then he'll be remembered for his brilliance, not his slow decay.

  • Shankar on November 13, 2011, 0:37 GMT


    Not because they are Indian is why I brought it up but because they are good pace bowlers but I just think Siddle is better. I can't say he is better than Anderson and Steyn because that is not true. I just hold those Indian pace bowlers in decent regards.

    It will do so much damage to Hughes if you drop him. We have wicket takers in different surfaces like Harris is the wicket taker and he can swing it, Watto takes wickets and swings, Siddle will put pressure by a consistent line and length and Johnson is a beast and he looked better than he was before (consistency wise).

    The only changes I think need to be made are if Marsh is injured bring Khawaja and if conditions suit then Siddle for Copeland.

  • Alex on November 12, 2011, 23:33 GMT

    @Nightwing - I can only hope that Ponting decides to leave the game on his own terms rather than be kicked out, but he keeps talking about the 2013 ashes and how good his form is despite evidence to the contrary. I concede Haddin may surprise us, Hussey returned to match winning form when ppl were saying he should be dropped 12 months ago, but my opinion is still that as soon as Paine is back fit he should replace him. I do disagree over the Phil Hughes comment though. There are many similarities between a young S Waugh and the current Hughes, but Waugh was removed from the Aus squad, returned to NSW and completely changed his style of play and technique, and went from opener to batting at 5th, Hughes hasn't show any desire yet to change what works for him in SS, believing it will eventually start to work. He will be caught behind the stumps or at gully/point the moment the ball is bowled an inch outside off just below hip height. He must remove the obvious weaknesses in his technique

  • Martin on November 12, 2011, 18:21 GMT

    Hey @atthipatti - I saw your tweet. Respect. Here's the thing - Players have to sweat blood to get to the top in cricket. Either that or they have to be ultra gifted people for whom the game comes naturally. Nowadays both. When Australia are at the top the world aspires to beat them because they set the standard in hard yakka and talent. It's mutual respect, and it's earned. Now that England have managed to get to the top after years of what you rightly call "mickey mouse games", the wombats won't have it from certain groups of fans it that it doesn't count, or "isn't fair", or some other ridiculous excuse. That's garbage. Teams get to the top because they work really hard at the greatest game. Teams that work really hard deserve their success. Sides that "just turn up" deserve everything they get. Winning at Test cricket is hard. It's not gloating - it's stating that playing cricket at anything less than 100% is inexcusable. The fans deserve it. Test Match cricket demands it. True?

  • R on November 12, 2011, 17:28 GMT

    @Nightwing32 - don't know why you brought Zaheer and Ishant here..but if you think I am an Indian,who does not like Australian cricket team then one half is true..I am an Indian but my second favourite team is Australia...I always liked their never say die approach..I agree Hughes is very young and he needs time..but his technique is not going to help him against very good bowlers..scoring 100 after every 10 innings is not going to help the team..abt Haddin..he always thinks that he can come out of the form by may happen occasionally but not a senior pro he has to be a role model for the Juniors..Siddle is a work horse..agree..but you need wicket taking abilities..once again occasional 5-for is not going to for as Mitch Johnson is concern, this should be the last chance for him..if he fails, then he shd go bck to domestic cricket..Khawaja for Hughes and Cummings for Siddle wd be my changes in the next X1. No backup keeper Haddin survives.

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    Why all want Siddle to be dropped? I thought he rescued his team from 21/9 to a lesser disgrace of 47, din't he?

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