THE South Africans were equally as unprepared, playing away from home, without their best player and best fast bowler.
And the first two tests haven’t been close at all.
Ultimately there will be concerns, legitimately too, around culture, coaching, performance standards, team practices and overall governance.
But at the end of the day the plight of the Test team boils down significantly to selection.
The selectors have failed for some time now, the continual reconciliations with Shaun Marsh and his hamstrings, the failure to give a debut to anyone promising under 25 and chopping and changing their strategy far too much, just to name a few of their calamities.
With an Ashes series 12 months away, a home Ashes too more importantly (and let’s all be honest the Ashes still is ‘the’ pinnacle series – it matters more than any other), it’s never been more pertinent to get the side back on track accordingly.
The preeminent issue of late has been the utter lack of runs, those batting collapses. Just in this most recent Test to lose 8-32 and 10-85 is the kind of stuff that if it these were Pakistani performances you’d wonder if bookmakers were involved. Yet not here, no-one’s making a cent out of these batting displays – at least the sub-continent was getting paid for failure, the Aussies are without runs nor stuffed brown paper bags.
The batting has long failed for some time but the last five tests especially, going back to the most recent mid-year sub-continental tour, have properly stunk.
Steve Smith, the poor bugger, has tried his guts out, clearly shown the guile and guts that a test batter needs, particularly when the going gets tough as it has of late, but has had few mates.
So we know the problem, what is the solution – it’s time for new batters.
How one goes about making this change is subjective; it’s a bit like in football, do you rebuild quickly and take the short-term pain or do it over a longer period, so it’s gentler on performances but it will require greater patience?
Either way the replacements are out there, the talent, albeit probably a bit thin, does exist, and it’s these names that might give the side a chance to regain the little Urn. Otherwise it will get a lot more embarrassing.
Firstly, who goes? Quite a few actually, we’re not talking about a small problem here, the team clearly can’t amass any score of note whatsoever with the status quo.
Joe Burns, 27, only has a first class average of 39, he really does need more runs to cement his place. He needs to go back and have a monster Shield season, or even better a monster County season.
Adam Voges, 37, he just retires, enough said. Callum Ferguson, 32 next week, has just 15 first class centuries from 185 innings and stacked up against some of the younger names to be mentioned below, he is stiff but misses the cut.
Put a fork through Shaun Marsh, 33, only nine test scores over 50 from 34 innings, and his brother Mitch, 25, has a future but only two 50s from 31 innings is deplorable when batting in the top six – he needs a big Shield season with the willow.
So who are the names that come in, at some point, and become the solution?
Cameron Bancroft, 23, has been earmarked as the nation’s future opener for some time now and has been overlooked for older players clearly shown to be past it (Marsh) or not yet reliable (Burns). The Western Australian has not been in the runs yet this season but averaged 45 in the Shield last season and has made big scores for Australia A in the past. Plus he can keep, which solves the ‘Peter Nevill issue’ too.
The middle order will be boosted by the inclusion of Kurtis Patterson, 23. Arguably the most in form domestic player in the Shield and had a great Australia A tour in the spring. Averaged 52 in the Shield last year, already averaging 55 this season, and notched up three 50s for Australia A from four innings just recently. A huge talent with great temperament, the New South Welshmen needs a Baggy Green.
The Victorian Peter Handscomb, 25, has one of the best techniques in the country, had a very good Shield season last year and has been good too for Australia A. He is destined to have a Test career, it is just a case of when; he is averaging 50 in the Shield this season already.
Lastly from a batting perspective, a wildcard, Hilton Cartwright, 24, of Western Australia. Born in Zimbabwe, eligible for England, he is a prodigious talent. A batting all-rounder, it’s his performances at the crease of late that have improved exponentially and he would make a great lower-order inclusion. He had the highest average in the Shield last year (68) and made a very attractive hundred two months ago for Australia A.
Alongside the captain Smith, David Warner and Usman Khawaja in the line-up, that top seven actually has the talent, potential and foundation to be backed in, persisted with and possess every chance to succeed.
Complimented by the world-class Mitchell Starc, the very in-form Josh Hazlewood and one of the very talented James Pattinson or Pat Cummins, the prospects then start to look very promising. Nathan Lyon has not been in a good patch but at the end of the day remains our country’s best spinner and would be more fruitful at his craft should he have decent batting totals to defend.
The time is now to implement some highly talented youth, youth that shows a real enthusiasm for their wicket and the Baggy Green alike, and get this team winning again as it should.
Proposed Australian batting lineup:
1. David Warner
2. Cameron Bancroft (wk)
3. Usman Khawaja
4. Kurtis Patterson
5. Steve Smith ©
6. Peter Handscomb
7. Hilton Cartwright
8. Mitchell Starc
9. James Pattinson
10. Josh Hazlewood
11. Nathan Lyon
Pat Cummins (twelfth man)