Australia sees no light at end of Ashes tunnel
Melbourne: Australia`s annihilation at Lord`s was slammed by the country`s cricket writers on Monday, and their chances of winning a solitary test on their tour of England all but written off.
With eight more Ashes Tests looming over the next six months, three more in England and five back Down Under, the influential Malcolm Conn was again caused to ponder whether this was the worst Australian team to ever travel to England.
"On the back of a depressing 347-run, four-day defeat in the second test at Lord`s, this side may well lose all five. It is already 2-0 down," Conn wrote in his column in News Ltd newspapers.
"Heaven knows what the tally could be by the time the last test of the return series is over in Sydney five and a half months from now."
Michael Clarke`s Australia head into the third Test at Old Trafford on a six-test losing streak, their worst slump since being thrashed by the all-conquering West Indies side in the mid-1980s.
Gideon Haigh described the Lord`s debacle, underpinned by the repeated failures of Australia`s top batting order, as a "shabby and public humbling" in his column in The Australian newspaper.
"Australia can play better than they showed here. If their batsmen could give their bowlers more than three hours off in three days, they just might," Haigh wrote.
"The trouble for Australia is that England can also play better."
Off-field events have also reinforced perceptions of a cricket team in crisis, with former coach Mickey Arthur seeking a multi-million dollar pay-out after being sacked before the series and branded a "scapegoat" by Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland.
Arthur`s comments in papers filed with a local employment tribunal and leaked to a national broadcaster reinforced the perception of a team plagued by infighting, and contained the allegation that captain Clarke had described a "faction" led by his deputy Shane Watson as a "cancer".
Opening batsman Watson did little to rehabilitate his image, squandering positive starts with a pair of lbw dismissals and wasting a Decision Review System referral in the first knock.
After ushering struggling top order batsman Ed Cowan out of the team, local media suggested Watson could be next to go.
"Speaking of Watson, which frankly is where Australia`s travails seem invariably to begin, yet again the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse," Haigh wrote.
"He could sell advertising space on his pads, so prominently are they featuring in each day`s play."
Watson`s critics included the brother of exiled batsman David Warner, who slammed the burly opener as "selfish" in an abusive tweet, a view many pundits Down Under shared after he chose to refer his first innings dismissal to the DRS despite being trapped plum in front.
David Warner has been serving penance with Australia A in Africa after punching second-test centurion Joe Root in a boozy incident at a bar during the Champions Trophy in the leadup, but was moved to distance himself from the comment.
"Like everyone, he is entitled to his opinions but I want to state categorically that I do not endorse his comments and fully support Shane and all my teammates," Warner said in a statement.
No doubt intended to convey an impression of team harmony, the boiler-plate comment issued by Cricket Australia seemed more like the paranoid reaction of a demoralised cricketing nation far too sensitive to criticism.