Minutes had barely passed before the fall-out from England’s dismal Ashes defeat had begun.
There was talk of an “embarrassing” performance, Joe Root stepping down as captain, the future of head coach Chris Silverwood and the state of county cricket as England were bowled out for just 68 in Melbourne to give Australia an innings win and an unassailable 3-0 series lead.
‘It is embarrassing – there are careers on the line’
England started day three on 31-4 – a deficit of 51 – and looking to bat time and give Australia a tricky fourth-innings chase.
There were encouraging early signs with handsome drives from Root and Ben Stokes before the latter was bowled by Mitchell Starc.
The tourists then lost their final five wickets in 30 balls to slip from 60-5 to 68 all out in just 27.4 overs.
Former England pace bowler Steve Harmison told BT Sport the performance was “embarrassing”, adding: “There was no fight this morning and there are careers on the line.”
All-rounder Moeen Ali, who retired from Test cricket in September but still plays white-ball cricket for England, told BT Sport: “Australia are just way ahead of England and have outplayed us in all three games.
“I didn’t think the gap was that big before the series but I almost think it is bigger than we are willing to admit. I can’t remember many sessions we have won in this series.
“You need experience, a technique and to work hard in Test cricket. I’m not saying we don’t work hard enough, but I’m not sure we work on the right things often enough.
“We’ve got some soul searching to do.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew told Test Match Special that England “looked a beaten team” and that if the series was played on a level playing field, Australia are “perhaps 15% better than England”.
‘I would be surprised if Root continues’
Before the series Root admitted this tour would define his tenure as captain.
He is England’s most successful captain in terms of Test victories, but he has now suffered two heavy defeats in Australia and drawn a home Ashes series.
Agnew said: “I would be surprised if Joe Root continues as captain.
“I saw a very tired figure down there just now but it hasn’t affected his batting which could be the one thing that keeps him going.”
Root himself told Test Match Special that “you can’t start looking at things too far in the future”.
Harmison, who was part of England’s 2005 Ashes-winning team, said it would be “ridiculously short-sighted” to remove Root and Silverwood as captain and coach respectively, adding “the system as a whole needs to change”.
However, Steven Finn, who has played in three Ashes-winning series, questioned whether Silverwood’s role as head coach and chief selector was the right model going forward.
“It is an interesting position,” Finn said on BBC Test Match Special. “It is a lot of responsibility for one person to take.
“From a player’s perspective too I think when you’re looking at a coach you want to see him as a confidant and be able to approach him if you’re not in the greatest of form and say ‘coach I’m in a hole, and I want to get out of it, can you help me?’.”
‘We need to press the reset button’
In 2021, England have struggled in India during the winter, been beaten by New Zealand on home soil and have now endured a chastening Ashes series with two matches still to go.
Throughout the year, there has been discussion about red-ball cricket in England, and whether the model and times of the year it is played helps the Test team.
The County Championship is often played at the start of the season and the end, with the white-ball competitions – The Hundred, T20 Blast and One-Day Cup – played throughout the summer months.
Agnew said the scheduling is a “disaster” and the Championship should be moved back to “being the spine of the season rather than being shunted to the extremities”.
Jonathan Trott, who scored 3,835 runs in 52 Tests, agreed on BT Sport, saying red-ball cricket is not prioritised in England and it has been “pushed to the side”.
After the 2015 50-over World Cup where England were eliminated in the group stage, they had a rebrand and played a more attacking style of cricket that culminated in them becoming world champions in 2019.
Harmison believes the current red-ball team is in a “lot worse state” than that side, and that England “need to press the reset button”.
“Batters need to learn how to bat for six hours and there is only one batter in this team that is doing that consistently over a long period of time – that is Joe Root,” Harmison said.
“It goes back to the basics and fundamentals of how you learn the game – Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head both came to England to play county cricket this summer.
“It is not first-class cricket that is the problem – it is how we play it and when we play it that is the problem. If that changes it gives us a little bit more of a chance of bridging the gap between playing at home and playing away and producing cricketers who have the concentration, skillset and ability to bat for six hours.
“We have to find a balance between red and white-ball cricket, not just with white-ball but with the commercial side of the game, I don’t think we’ve seen red-ball cricket as bad as it is in his country since probably before I started playing in 2002.”
How you reacted on #bbccricket
Guernsey Chase: Abysmal. The England bowlers must be fed up, running in giving 110%, and zero back-up from the batsmen over and over again. It really says something that Root has one had one of the best Test years on record, and we have still been hammered time and time again.
Matt: That reminded me a little of how England were a few series ago, facing Mitchell Johnson. We look scared, don’t want to be in the middle, throwing wickets away. This time it was Starc tormenting us, Boland took advantage of that.
Dave Moz: The worst thing about this embarrassment by England is this is the best it could be, it’s not like we have anyone coming through banging down the door for a place in the team. Test cricketers in England are a dying breed.
Andy Glascott: If you’re English in Australia right now, keep your phone on, you might get a game in Sydney or Hobart.
Warringtini: We lost by an innings when the Aussies only scored 267 in their innings. Beyond embarrassing. Changes need to be made. Jimmy should just retire now, we don’t deserve him.
Jambarrell: Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom in order to make the necessary changes. I just hope this is now rock bottom!
And we’ll leave you with this poll that we ran in the live text commentary – optimism is low among England fans…
See you for the Sydney Test on 4 January!