Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 5th day January 7, 2011

Clarke wants Australia to learn from England

After seeing their world-beating game-plan improved on by England, Australia are now looking to their Ashes dominators to provide a way out this mess. For more than a decade Australia were the leaders in planning and innovation, but over the past couple of years they have gone into freefall.

England's 3-1 Ashes victory, their first Down Under since 1986-87, has provided Australia with another fierce reality check after a batch of them in 2010. "I think 100% we have to learn from what England did this series," Clarke said. "Their performance, not only with bat and ball, but in the field, was outstanding for a five-Test series. There's a great starting point to be able to turn up every day for five Tests, to perform as well as they did."

Clarke was in the unfortunate position of being in charge when the trophy was handed over, having replaced the injured Ricky Ponting for the final Test. He may have the job full-time if the selectors decide Ponting's time is up before the next tour of Sri Lanka in August, although Clarke loyally pledged his support to the official leader.

If Clarke takes over at least he knows what his side needs to do to succeed against the best teams. "It takes a lot of discipline, a lot of planning before the series," he said. "The [England] bowlers have executed their plans outstandingly against our batters and their batters have cashed in when we haven't bowled in the right areas. We do need to look at how England have played in this series and take a lot of notes from that."

The overall campaign was a poor one for Clarke, who performed so strongly in the 2006-07 and 2009 Ashes campaigns. Clarke, who managed only 193 runs at 21.44, said it felt like the lowest point of his career.

"Unfortunately I've lost a few Ashes series now and they're all pretty bad," he said. "But being the vice-captain of the Australian team, and having such a disappointing series with the bat, it probably is [the worst]."

Clarke, 29, has retired from Twenty20s to focus on improving his impact in the longer forms of the game, but he was asked whether he should hold his five-day spot for the Sri Lanka trip. "I would like to, I really hope so," he said. "Throughout this series I've played well in a couple of innings, but I couldn't go out and make a big score."

If he had the series over again he would have practised more against tall, fast bowlers before the first Test in Brisbane. He spent the early stages of the series being targeted by short-pitched deliveries when he was overcoming a back injury, and was unable to find any fluency.

Australia's lead-up included one-day games against Sri Lanka and a couple of domestic fixtures, while England were fine-tuning from the moment their home summer ended. They were better in all disciplines except wicketkeeping, where Brad Haddin and Matt Prior were evenly matched.

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, dismissed any criticism of the schedule having an influence on the result. "To point the finger at the preparation and suggest that was responsible for us losing the series 3-1 is rubbish," he said. "We actually played more Test cricket than England did in the two or three months leading into the Ashes series."

Clarke was hurt by the standard of the side's fielding and said the bowlers needed more patience and discipline. "That's what England have done throughout this series," he said, before offering his attack some sympathy.

"I feel a bit for the bowlers, because I know they've copped a lot of criticism throughout this series, but I think we as batters have to take a lot of responsibility as well," he said. "If you can put 400 runs on the board, as England have shown, your bowlers generally bowl a lot better than what we have. Putting 100, 200, 250 on the board and expecting the bowlers to get them out for that sort of target, I think we're asking a hell of a lot."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo