Brisbane: Blame, not credit, was the bitter medicine required after England saved the first Ashes Test at the Gabba with a record-breaking second innings, Australia`s media decreed on Tuesday.
Led by Alastair Cook`s unbeaten 235, England batted through two days to rescue a dire position and take a morale boosting draw on Monday at a venue where Australia traditionally puts tourists to the sword.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting was once again the whipping boy of a media more used to trumpeting winners and champions than explaining why their team had failed to take more than one wicket in two days of cricket.
"Ashes humiliation - Ponting lets Gabba Test slip away," read the front page of the Australian, while Brisbane`s Courier-Mail splashed the word "Clueless" over an unflattering picture of the Australia skipper.
Buckets Of Scorn
"Has Australian cricket really fallen this far? Is the national team really this bad?" Malcolm Conn, who would usually be emptying buckets of scorn over the tourists by this stage of the series, wrote in the Australian.
"Not since Allan Border desperately tried to hold together a rabble gutted by South African rebel tours in the mid-1980s has Australian cricket performed so poorly.”
"Anyone who had the misfortune of watching Australia`s sad-sack effort in the field yesterday could only worry that we`re plumbing those depths again."
It was against Border`s weakened team that England last won the Ashes on Australian soil in 1986-87 but since then the contests have not even been close.
Australia`s fast bowlers, in particular the wicketless Mitchell Johnson, as well as fielding and even the Gabba pitch all took a hammering too.
The Gabba enjoyed packed houses on the first three days but poor turnouts on the last two saw the home fans outnumbered and outshouted by England`s travelling "Barmy Army."
"I forgot where I was for a moment out there today it was like being back at the Oval or something," said Ponting, who was roundly booed by the English fans as he took the field to help bat out the match on Monday afternoon.
"(But) I think 130,000 people or so turned out to watch the match over the five days and that just goes to show where Test cricket is at the moment in Australia."
Low turnouts for later days of test matches are not that unusual when the match looks destined for a draw and when they coincide with working days, but the availability of tickets for Friday`s first day of the Adelaide Test will be of more concern.