Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 4th day January 6, 2011

Awful Australia sink to new depths

Smart cricket is not a feature of this Australian team, which provides patches of promise followed by hours of misery

Australia's favourite word of the series has been "disappointing". A month ago, after the Adelaide defeat, it was appropriate for summing up the mood, but with every bad day since it has barely covered the magnitude of the slide. Apart from a handful of highlights in Perth, the Australians have been waiting to hit rock bottom. The pebble hasn't landed yet.

Each morning the home supporters have headed to the various grounds hoping for better and seen much worse. In Brisbane England were 1 for 517 and Australia were 3 for 2 in Adelaide. At the WACA they slipped to 5 for 69 and at the MCG they were all out for 98 on the opening day. Today, when they had promised to fight hard early, they allowed England to score 644, their highest total in Australia.

Watching the bowling over the first half of the day was as soul-sapping for the home supporters as seeing the batting in the afternoon. England requested the extra half an hour in an effort to finish the contest in four days, but they will have to wait until tomorrow to sign off the series. Australia held on to be 7 for 213, heading for a record third innings loss for the series.

One of the many problems with this team is there are patches of promise followed by hours of misery. England were 5 for 226 when Paul Collingwood was dismissed on the third day, but Australia let them recover and then dominate to the point where the efforts of the home bowlers were treated as casually as throw-downs. Graeme Swann, the No.10, was the main aggressor when Mitchell Johnson was thrashed for 35 runs in two overs. Just a fortnight ago Johnson was a world-beater, but he has been battered once again.

Noble draws are not a concept Australia really understands, so Shane Watson came out in a boundary-hungry mood, pulling his first delivery for four and speeding to 38 at almost a run-a-ball. Such is the team's state that Watson is its second-most valuable player behind Michael Hussey. The side will take every start he gets, while praying that one day he can start to add to his two Test centuries. Blaming him is not fair when he is one of the few consistent ones.

Watson is a much-improved cricketer but talk of him being a captaincy contender cannot be taken seriously as long as he continues to make such basic errors. In Melbourne he ran out Phillip Hughes and this time Watson's daydream cost him his wicket. After dawdling over a single, he did not bother to look at Hughes when he came back for a second until he realised they were both at the same end.

Smart cricket is not a feature of this team. Bowlers let the pressure off with legside deliveries or short ones outside off, and the changing fields make it harder for struggling fast bowlers to find their rhythm. Batsmen insist on following balls angling away even though they know it increases the risk of an edge. Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke all nicked ones that were leaving them today.

For a brief period, if you squinted really hard, it was possible to glimpse the future when Clarke and Khawaja were putting on 65. The captain was confident, successfully playing his shots despite his run drought, and Khawaja was graceful and assured. Saving the game would have still required a miracle, but watching them was fun and, most importantly, a distraction from the overall direction of the match and the series.

More disappointment came when the duo's starts were not converted. A century was needed but Clarke delivered 41 and Khawaja 21. Khawaja is new and has been encouraging in his first two innings, while Clarke repeats his flashy mistakes. Clarke stubbed the bat angrily into the ground after nicking James Anderson. England's bowlers have been excellent throughout this series, but Clarke used to be so much better than them. He has a lot to consider before the next Test campaign against Sri Lanka in August, including a switch back to No.5.

Hussey has been Australia's man for a crisis but after holding them together for the first three Tests he has lost power. He was disappointed to cut Tim Bresnan to gully. Brad Haddin, with another miss at No.6, felt the same when caught behind playing an ugly pull to Chris Tremlett. Johnson was very disappointed when he was bowled first ball.

So were the Australian spectators who had already started to leave, searching for more suitable words to describe the performances throughout an Ashes-losing summer. Dreadful, awful and woeful don't convey the depths to which Australia have fallen. Thankfully it's nearly over.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2011, 16:44 GMT

    Michael Clarke - An apt leader for an inept team !!! wadde shame !!

  • chris on January 7, 2011, 6:36 GMT

    Not once in the whole series did australia field it's strongest team...that's not to say the result would have been different...but that namely the selectors have been a joke!! Watson is not an opener. Smith is not a number 6 ( why is he in the team? fielding? cracking jokes???) Clarke has been given too many opportunities to find form, Hifenhaus should not have played in sydney..bollinger should have played on his home ground. as for doherty/beer both proved they are not as good as hauritz. Sack the selectors and invest in the future. O'keefe, Copeland, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, starc, Hazelwood, Mckay, and cameron white are all names that need to be considered and tried if australia is going to move on from this debacle.

  • Nadeem on January 7, 2011, 6:31 GMT

    I am so happy that australian dominance is over. Australians has destroyed lots of teams, ended lots of players careers and wipe out whole international teams in last 12 years. Finaly the day has come where australian moon ride is over and they are back to earth and living like humans. Finaly australian invincibility is over and test cricket is back to normal as it used to be in 90s. 12 years of utter dominance is too much to handle. I hope now others team play well and we have 5 to 6 top teams to play each other.

  • Cameron on January 7, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    Firstly you can absolutely not take anything away from the English over this series. If Australia can rightfully be called awful then we must give credit where due and note that England were outstanding. It is frustrating though to see the way the Australians played. i think this is in a sense the result of two or more years of terrible selection policy and bad coaching. It seems no Australian player has improved his technique over the past two years and some, such as Johnson and Clarke, have gone backwards. The selectors seem obsessed with trying to pluck the next superstar from obscurity rather than rewarding consistent performance. Hughes picked when averaging 16 at first class level, Doherty, Beer, Smith all examples of selections based on hope. David Hussey might be 32 but he has consistently been the best first class player for several years and could play test cricket for at least two years.

  • Russell on January 7, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    A lot of people jumping up and down about the state of Australian cricket like it's the end of the world or something. What we really lack is a reliable spinner. That has been made plain. Even though Swan did not take a bagfull of wickets, at least he tied down an end and built pressure. Can't see why we can't just admit that we have ordinary spinners and recall Hauritz as the best of a bad bunch. Let Smith, O'keefee, Boyce et al. twirl away at shield level for a few seasons to hone their skills. Heaps of good shield pace options - Swann (a bit old), Cameron & Copeland, Bollinger, George, Starc etc. No need to panic here, one of these will do the job. Siddle & Hilfy are not up to test standard at the moment & need to go back to shield cricket for a while. Heaps of good young shield batting talent also - Khawaja, Marsh, Ferguson, Cosgrove etc... Watson also needs to move to 6. Period. He is an allrounder, not an opener. His opening dreams should be put to bed.

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Thanks, Trompos (23:43 PM), that was a gracious and sporting message.

  • Mick on January 7, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    @Nerk Shaun: Marsh and Ferguson, who are no doubt talented, need to put some serious runs on the board in Shield before being considered serious Test prospects. Avergaing 37 and 35 respectively after plenty of innings isn't even close to good enough. This is where it's problematic for the sack Ponting/Clarke brigade. Fine, their performances in recent times have not been close to up to scratch but where are the young players willing to string together 4/5 impressive seasons in Shield and demand they be selected? You've got the likes of Dave Warner hitting the occasional six in T20 and not much else then threatening to leave NSW because they won't pick him in first-class. Surely there's an attitude problem with some of these guys. Either that or they're just not up to it.

  • John on January 7, 2011, 5:25 GMT

    I don't believe in gloating over defeated opponents, but I'll make an exception in the case of jonesy2 and popcorn. Not a word of praise for an England team that played some brilliant cricket. You were beaten by a better team. Get used to it.

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2011, 5:24 GMT

    Michael Clarke - An apt leader for an inept team !!!

  • Ash on January 7, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    hilfenhaus, bollinger, smith out. these players are truly out of their depth. Hughes must go when katich is back. Bring back lee, clark, o'keefe, d hussey. And why is steve smith in the T20 squad...ok the selectors want to invest in the future, at least choose the best players. Steve Smith is ordinary at present and would not make it into SA/eng/india/SL/pakistan teams just as a comparison

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