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Australia must face facts, consequences

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Five things we learned in Perth (2:56)

The key takeaways from the first Test, from South Africa's successful use of spin to Australia's familiar batting collapse (2:56)

There's no other way to say this. Australia's cricketers are presently in the grip of the kind of slide that has historically ended careers.

A fourth consecutive defeat, sealed with more than a session to spare by a South Africa side minus AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, is Australia's worst run of losses since six in a row in 2013. The coach Mickey Arthur was sacked by Cricket Australia between the fourth and the fifth.

To find another instance of four or more consecutive losses the clock must be wound back all the way to 1984, when the Australian Cricket Board (in its infinite wisdom) scheduled 10 consecutive Tests against West Indies at their mightiest. Kim Hughes led Australia through five straight defeats before resigning in tears at the Gabba. Allan Border's first Test as captain was a sixth loss in a row.

Venture further still into the past, to the divisive days of the World Series Cricket split, and another loss of five Tests in a row - four to Mike Brearley's England and one to a Sarfraz Nawaz-inspired Pakistan in 1978-79. Graham Yallop - having predicted a "six-nil" Ashes victory - was relieved of his command after a 5-1 series defeat. Hughes was duly in command for the Pakistan loss at the MCG, during which time Kerry Packer and the board chairman Bob Parish met to discuss a much-needed truce in the cricket war.

What does all this say? That the system can only take so much strain before it breaks. Another recent example of course is the summer of 2010-11. Three innings defeats in the one Ashes series, while not consecutive, humiliated Australian cricket at home. those results ushered the end of Ricky Ponting's captaincy, Tim Nielsen's coaching tenure and the breaking up of the selection panel chaired by the part-timer Andrew Hilditch. Those changes were wrought by the Argus review, a major undertaking that enshrined numerous alterations to how the national team was run.

Five years on, and that document still takes pride of place in the personal collection of the team performance manager Pat Howard, among others. But as already discussed, the mixed priorities illustrated by the move of the first Test of the summer from the Gabba to the WACA, and the scheduling of a solitary Sheffield Shield match - under lights with a pink ball at that - place fresh scrutiny on decision-making in the halls of CA's Jolimont headquarters.

Intriguingly, the CA board recently hosted a presentation by the New South Wales chairman John Warn and chief executive Andrew Jones on how they turned around the fortunes of the game's most populous state. Independent governance at director level should ensure CA's CEO, James Sutherland, is kept on his toes. So too should a mood for change at senior executive level - Kate Banozic and Mike McKenna have gone, while the former board director Kevin Roberts has come in, alongside a newly promoted head of finance in Todd Shand.

Pressure, too, must fall on the coach Darren Lehmann, despite his recent signing of a renewed deal to see him through to 2019. Earlier in this match, he offered up familiar homilies to ABC Radio about the quality of the individuals currently in the dressing room, how hard they were working and how great their attitudes were. This extended not just to the players but also to support staff including David Saker, Graeme Hick and Lehmann's old state team-mate Greg Blewett - nominally the fielding coach.

"They do all the prep, they're great young men, they're trying to do as well as they can for Australia each and every time, it's just a case of making little mental lapses at times," Lehmann had said. "Collectively we're always pretty positive, but stats will show we haven't batted as well as we would have liked the last few Test matches. There's no hiding the fact we've got to bat better.

"There's always pressure when you're coaching your country or playing for the country, that's why the guys have got to where they've got to. They've been brilliant doing all the work behind the scenes and playing at the level below, now they've got to do it at this level."

True as this all is, the fact is that the Australian team is not a club side defined by how well everyone gets along with each other. It is a representative team brought together to win matches. As one former captain said recently: "If you ask me to choose between a happy team and a winning one, I'll take the winning one every time."

Australia have passed the point where they can keep whistling merrily towards defeat. There should be consequences, and soon.