Tired of regular batting collapses, an angry and humiliated Steve Smith has called for pride to be restored in the baggy green after Australia’s shambolic test series loss to South Africa.
Australia’s dependence on Smith was laid bare yet again in Hobart on Tuesday, when the Proteas completed an innings-and-80-run win in the second test to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Smith’s side hurtled towards their fifth straight test loss during a collapse of 32-8 in 19.2 overs, with Kyle Abbott snaring six wickets to be named man of the match early on day four of the contest. Rain ruined the entire second day, providing a good deal more resistance than Australia’s batsmen.
Australia, ranked the best test side in the world prior to a 3-0 series loss in Sri Lanka, could soon slip to fifth on the table. They have lost their past five ODIs and past five tests.
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Coach Darren Lehmann acknowledged it was a crisis after his side wilted to their lowest test total at home since 1985 on Saturday. They were skittled for 85 on day one, when Smith finished 48 not out.
ROBERT CIANFLONE/GETTY IMAGES
Further ignominy could come under lights in the third test next week at Adelaide Oval.
Since federation, Australia have never been whitewashed in a test series on home soil. There will be changes in an effort to avoid that result but it remains to be seen how many and at what level.
“I am embarrassed … I’m hurting,” a shattered Smith said, having dug in like he did on day one.
“We are not resilient enough. We are not digging in enough. We are not having the pride in our wicket.
“The boys have got to start being a bit tougher …. I need players who are willing to get into the contest and get into the battle and (have) pride in playing for Australia and pride in the baggy green.
“It’s not good enough. I’m quite sick of saying it.
“It’s happened five tests in a row now. For an Australian cricket team that’s humiliating.”
Lehmann, selectors, high-performance chief Pat Howard and Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland remain under immense pressure, with a range of factors being blamed for the way Australia have unravelled so spectacularly in such a short space of time.
Howard and Sutherland both offered their support to distraught players in the changerooms.
Former players Shane Warne, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Michael Slater, Tom Moody spent time chatting with Smith’s joyless teammates.
“Everybody is hurting in the rooms. I haven’t seen it as quiet after a loss and that’s understandable because of the performances,” Lehmann said.
Morale has not been so low since 2013, when the homeworkgate affair prompted Mickey Arthur’s sacking and Australia dropped six straight Tests.
But that was overseas. Australia haven’t been in such a sorry state at home since the Argus review was commissioned in 2011 following a 3-1 Ashes loss at home.
One of the recommendations of that report was for Australia’s skipper to formally be on the selection panel. That policy was introduced but ended during Michael Clarke’s captaincy.
“That’s a tough question … we haven’t been good enough, everything will be talked about,” Smith said, when asked if he should become a selector.
“A lot of the time Boof (Lehmann) and I do get the team we think is suited to conditions.
“I do talk to the selectors quite a bit. In the end it’s up to them to pick the team.”
Adam Voges headlines the players at greatest risk of being dropped when selectors announce a new test squad on the weekend.
The Australians were finished off before lunch on the fourth day – which was effectively the third, given Sunday’s wash-out – to lose by an innings and 80 runs.
Their capitulation was exemplified in the dismissal of its numbers 5 and 6, with both batsmen left looking as bemused as onlookers.
There had been hopes that the Australians might fight back in their second innings on Tuesday, resuming at 121-2 and 120 in arrears of the tourists. However, after being bowled out for 85 in their first innings, and losing 10-85 in Perth during the first test, another collapse brought them undone.
In all, from Usman Khawaja’s exit for 64 early on in the day, they lost 8-32 to be all out for 161 .
South African seamers Abbott (6-77) and Kagiso Rabada (4-34) were again superb, giving little away, but the fashion in which the hosts were rolled again leaves huge questions about the immediate future of this team.
Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson were both out cheaply, as they were in the first innings, and looked confused by some spell-binding bowling.
Voges, despite a test average of 61.87, is likely to have played his final test match, and Ferguson, a debutant in Hobart, will be fortunate to get another chance.
There are others under pressure, too, notably spinner Nathan Lyon, wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, debutant seamer Joe Mennie and opener Joe Burns, at one of the lowest points for Australian cricket in years.
“All our bowlers were exceptional,” said Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis.
“I’m so happy for Kyle … every single time he gets an opportunity he puts his hand up.”
– AAP, /Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald