It is not often that a sportsman makes such a bold statement. But to his credit, Nasser Hussain did. In his Sunday Telegraph column, the England skipper conceded that it was 'blatantly obvious' that his ludicrous decision to field first was a 'big mistake.' Brave words, which should be applauded, but they do nothing to lessen the folly of a choice which handed a massive advantage to the best side in the world.

Hussain followed an unusually correct call with an unusually incorrect decision. On a fine batting pitch, without a cloud in the sky, he denied his strong top order the chance to prove themselves. Instead, he put enormous pressure on his bowlers, who spectacularly failed to respond. In bowling first, the clearest possible signal was sent that England were scared of Australia's vaunted attack.

The second day excepted, this was an abject England performance. They were thrashed, albeit by a great side. They had no answer to Matthew Hayden's batting, nor to the deadly accuracy of the Australian bowling. It was carnage, and there seems to be little hope of a way back.

Despite the batting collapses, the fielding mishaps and the bowling inconsistencies, there remain - just - reasons for optimism. England did not just win Friday's play, they dominated it. From start to finish, the tourists took control. If such disciplined bowling, watertight fielding and gutsy batting were a feature of England's play rather than a sideshow, this would be a devilishly close series.

There is ability there. England possess their most solid top order for over a decade and have a potentially decent bowling attack. With the bat, they were let down by poor conversion. Certainly, four fifties in the top five is better than none, but the inability to complete the job was probably the difference between the two teams. Two big hundreds, rather than four small fifties, would have given England a serious chance of saving the game.

The bowlers remain a worry. Matthew Hoggard - a fine bowler in England - found little swing and no cheer. In such friendly batting conditions he looks distinctly average, and will be lucky to retain his place. He is a fine talent, and must be reminded of that, but this tour is too much after handling much of the England workload for twelve months. Andrew Caddick was typically frustrating. Such a wonderful bowler, he still bowls in fits and starts, and in turn looks innocuous and dangerous.

Only Ashley Giles bowled steadily throughout the Test, with Craig White little more than a stopgap. With Simon Jones missing, England's bowling looked threadbare, and they must address it. Presuming Andrew Flintoff fills the gap left by Simon Jones, it seems likely that Hoggard will make way for Steve Harmison or Chris Silverwood. The obvious choice would be Harmison, for he was chosen in the original party. Silverwood does possess genuine pace however, and is hungrier than ever to prove his critics wrong.

Despite their lowest total against Australia in nearly a century, there are unlikely to be changes in England's top order. Robert Key will push hard, but could only realistically replace John Crawley, who was solid in the first innings, and handles Shane Warne with something approaching aplomb.

Whatever the decisions, England have a tough ten days coming up. With Hussain absent for the birth of his second child, Marcus Trescothick is likely to lead the side against Australia A. They will be a strong side, quite possibly too strong for England. Ashes hopes may be minimal, but England must pick themselves up and prepare positively for Adelaide. If they don't, things might just get worse.