'When we have a collapse, we seem to have a big one' - Lehmann

Steven Smith and Darren Lehmann at the Bellerive Oval Getty Images

Australia's coach, Darren Lehmann, has admitted his team's batting woes have reached crisis point and placed his own job under scrutiny, after their crushing 85 all out on day one of the Hobart Test against South Africa.

On an ideal day for the seam and swing of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott, the hosts lacked the technical or mental means by which to withstand the challenge presented to them. With the exception of captain Steven Smith, the batsmen melted away in a near action replay of their collapses in Trent Bridge 2015, Lord's 2013, Cape Town 2011 and the MCG on Boxing Day 2010 - the sorts of unmitigated batting disasters that have come to define the team of late.

Lehmann, who in August signed a lucrative contract extension to keep him in the job until 2019, conceded it would be difficult for him and others to retain their positions should things continue to deteriorate. "When you get bowled out for 85, it probably is, isn't it?" Lehmann said, when asked if 'crisis' was an appropriate description. "So, for us, it's a matter of actually getting better. We lost 10 for 86 in the last Test match.

"We know they can play, you've got to have the belief to play at this level. It's a tough game, international cricket, no doubt about that. Having been there and been through it as a player myself, there are times when you've got to really believe in your ability.

"It's a great challenge ahead for myself and the coaching group, to pull the young guys through and teach them better, improve their techniques both on and off the field, mentally and that side of the game. It's a lot of fun. It doesn't feel like fun right at the moment to be perfectly honest, but that's what we've got to get better at."

Summing up the conditions, Lehmann said he had been reminded very much of Nottingham last year, when the Australians were shot out for 60 before lunch on day one of a match they had to win to avoid losing the Ashes.

"It was a bit of a reminder of Trent Bridge to be perfectly honest, the way it was going around," he said. "But again we've got to refine our game, as we spoke about before the game, if we bat first we have to really rein it in and make sure they're bowling really good balls to challenge us. A couple of the dismissals probably didn't warrant that. At the end of the day, 85 is not good enough from an Australian cricket team, there's not much more you can add to that."

There were various contributory factors in Australia's downfall - vice-captain David Warner's decision to chase a wide delivery in the very first over of the day, batsmen falling over, as was the case in the dismissals of Joe Burns, Adam Voges and Peter Nevill, and the run-out of debutant Callum Ferguson - highlighting how many basics of the game seem to have passed the Australians by.

"There were a couple of technical ones and mental decision making," Lehmann said. "For us we've just got to be better. It's a case of when the ball is swinging we've struggled, there's no hiding from that fact. So we've been doing everything behind the scenes to get better at it, but today we weren't as good as we should have been, we weren't good at all.

"Steven Smith played really well and we needed someone to hang with him. Our lower order has not performed either, but you can't blame them, the batters have to do the batting. We believe this is the best squad we've got. On today's performance you would say we've got to change. We've got to find a way to get through those tough periods, and we haven't done that in our last five Test matches now.

"So that's a challenge for the players but also the coaches, to adapt to the situations that confront you. It's been disappointing because once we have a collapse we seem to have a big one, and someone needs to stop that rot and have a partnership somewhere. A lot of good sides, whether Australian sides in the past or the good sides playing cricket now, find a way to have a partnership somewhere, and we didn't have one today."

Lehmann denied that there had been mixed messages surrounding the dropping of Mitchell Marsh after the selectors had initially indicated he would be guaranteed the first two matches. "Conditions, [Shaun Marsh's] broken finger, additions we had to make with Shaun going out and then picking the extra batter," Lehmann said of the circumstances changing. "I don't think it's mixed messages, the players are fine, Rodney talks to them before the match all the time, so very clear. Whether they agree with it or not is a different scenario."