Careers are on the line - Lehmann
Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, has said that some members of the squad could be playing for their careers during the final Investec Ashes Test at The Oval next week. Lehmann said the loss at Chester-le-Street on Monday was "bloody hard" and that Australia should have won "quite comfortably" given the strong platform set by the openers Chris Rogers and David Warner, who contributed to a start of 147 for 1 in a chase of 299.
But the loss of No.3 Usman Khawaja, lbw to Graeme Swann, then Michael Clarke to a ripper from Stuart Broad, Steven Smith hooking a bouncer down onto his stumps, and Shane Watson and Brad Haddin walking across their stumps to be lbw meant a collapse of 6 for 34, leaving far too much work for the tail. Lehmann said the continued failure of the Australians to stand up at the big moments meant there was much on the line at The Oval.
"Yep. There is nothing wrong with that. I'm happy for you to write whatever you write there," Lehmann said when asked if players could be playing for their careers. "To play for Australia, you have to perform to a level that's acceptable to everyone in our team, and also the Australian public and the media, and at the moment we're not doing that.
"I think they've fought really hard and they've shown glimpses of challenging a really good side obviously, but we haven't done that consistently enough. So we'll back them as we have and we will continue to back them, but at the end of the day performances count.
"From our point of view the blokes have got to learn. If they don't learn we will find blokes that will ... If they're not, and making the same mistakes, then we've got to change, and that's a simple fact of cricket and results."
The manner in which several of the Australians got themselves out during the chase was especially frustrating to Lehmann, who simply wanted his men to play straight. England's bowlers, Stuart Broad in particular, bowled well after tea and dried up the runs, but Lehmann said several of the Australian batsmen had contributed just as much to their downfall.
"Blokes are missing straight ones. That doesn't help," Lehmann said. "I thought Warner got a good ball, to be fair, Clarke got a ripper and probably Rogers got a decent ball. The rest should have played a lot straighter and they know that."
The one silver lining for Australia on the fourth day was the 109-run opening stand between Warner and Rogers, Australia's best opening partnership in a Test chase since 1995. Warner played a mature innings that mixed defence with a desire to score, and Rogers added to his first-innings 110 with a tenacious 49, leaving them locked in as the opening combination for the time being.
"The way they played today, yes," Lehmann said when asked if Warner and Rogers could stay at the top for the next year or so. "Warner was very good today. I was very impressed with him today and Rogers has been probably the find of the tour for us, the way he has gone about it, and his demeanour off the field and what he brings to the playing group as an experienced player. So I have been really impressed with both of them."
So much so that when Lehmann was asked if Watson would be considered at The Oval if he was unable to bowl due to his hip/groin injury, he responded that "no-one's guaranteed, apart from Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, I would think". The Australians travel to Northampton this week for a two-day tour match ahead of the final Test.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here