Australia mourns “death of cricket” after MCG slump

Melbourne: "Humiliation of a century", "Pathetic Aussies hit Ashes low", "Ponting`s men humiliated" -- local newspapers pulled no punches after what one described as Australia`s "worst cricketing day for 100 years".

England bowled the hosts out for 98 in front of 84,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday and then made 157 without loss on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test.

The Sydney Morning Herald led its front page with a report of the "humiliation" and the sports section with a reworking of the Victorian death notice that led to the Ashes series getting its name.

"In affectionate remembrance of Australian cricket, which died at the MCG on 26th December 2010. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances. RIP," it read.

The post-mortem was unforgiving.

"Ricky Ponting`s players were lambs to the slaughter," wrote columnist Peter Roebuck. "Their hopes of a second Test victory -- and keeping alive their hopes of seizing back the Ashes urn from England -- lasted three miserable and revealing hours."

The Australian newspaper continued the sombre tone.

"They turned up in their tens of thousands to celebrate Test cricket but most found themselves at a funeral," wrote Malcolm Conn. "Fitting perhaps given the Ashes appeared to be disappearing before their eyes.

"The noisy minority of Barmy Army troopers (England fans) and their many Pommy cohorts found even greater voice. Never mind the exchange rate, they wouldn`t miss this for quids."

Captain Ponting`s sixth failure in seven innings in this series had some contemplating the end of the 36-year-old`s career.

"It was sad to watch Australia`s most admired cricketer summon all his vast experience and determination and yet still comprehensively fail to extricate himself from a long batting slump that must be on the verge of becoming terminal," Ron Reed wrote in Melbourne`s Herald Sun.

"Emotions will run high in the great stadium when he bats a second time, with the match, the Ashes, his captaincy and probably his career all dangling by a thread."

Although most of the coverage focused on Australia`s failings, there was some praise for the tourists -- particularly the pace attack of James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan.

"The trio put on a clinic of how to bowl in favourable conditions, almost unerringly placing the ball so close to the stumps that the batsmen had to play or felt compelled to," wrote Jesse Hogan in Melbourne`s The Age.

Bureau Report