Australia’s crushing Ashes defeat is certain to see put pressure on general manager of team performance Pat Howard, with the team facing the prospect of becoming the worst to ever tour the UK.
Coach Darren Lehmann admitted the players have regressed in British conditions since losing 3-0 two years ago and defeat at The Oval next month would leave them stranded as the first Australian side to lose four Ashes Tests away from home.
Michael Clarke’s men arrived seven weeks ago brimming with confidence and vowing to end a run of defeats in England stretching back to 2001.
Vice-captain Steve Smith even boldly claimed in April that England ‘wouldn’t come close’ to beating his side.
But aside from a 405-run win in the Lord’s Test, it has been a tour to forget.
Both Clarke and bowling spearhead Ryan Harris have announced their retirements and the Ashes were meekly surrendered with an innings defeat at Trent Bridge after being bowled out for 60 on day one.
Up to eight more players may also be playing their final Test at the Oval, and the recriminations are certain to be even louder and longer if Alastair Cook’s side win the dead rubber later this month.
Howard signed a new contract in April that will keep him in his current role until 2017 and he pulls the strings behind the coaching set-up.
However, with Lehmann admitting the team have again badly struggled to adjust to English conditions, Howard will face some stiff questions with the Test team set for it’s biggest overhaul since Allan Border’s 1985 side.
Two years ago in England there were some crumbs of comfort despite the 3-0 loss, with the first glimpse of Smith emerging as a world-class batsman, David Warner cementing his spot at the top of the order and the sorely-missed Harris proving to be a Test bowler of the highest class.
But aside from the second Test win at Lord’s, where Smith, Chris Rogers and Mitchell Johnson were all outstanding, Australia have been well beaten in the other three matches with no genuine stand-out performers.
“I think we played better in 2013 to be perfectly honest,” Lehmann said.
“We certainly didn’t cope with the swinging or seaming ball in the last two Test matches well enough and that’s something we have to get better at.
“We’ll look at all areas where we can improve. That’s just what you do after series like this and try and move forward. We’ve had some really good results, this obviously not being one of them.”