Australia: Can they improve before winter Ashes?

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For a country used to being the dominant side in Test Cricket, Australia’s 3-0 drubbing at the hands of England will hurt.

10 years ago, such a score line would have been impossible to predict, particularly when it is remembered that, but for bad light, it would almost certainly have been four.

Without wanting to take too much away from England, who excelled under Alastair Cook, Australia were poor and repeatedly handed momentum over to the Three Lions throughout the series. 

Some elements of their thrashing were admittedly out of Darren Lehmann’s control, such as Peter Siddle’s knee injury partway through the tour. Ryan Harris was a shining star in a very dim cosmos, but ultimately Australia were not good enough, and Lehmann will have his work cut out to make sure a repeat of this series doesn’t happen again Down Under in December.

Firstly, at the most basic level, the entire squad must alter their conduct. David Warner’s altercation with Joe Root at the start of the summer may have been a warning of things to come. Fights in pubs, wild accusations against England of pitch-doctoring, and public Broad-sledging all came together to create the debacle that was Australia’s summer.

Lehmann was forced to apologise after publicly calling Stuart Broad a cheat for not walking in the first Test – a month after it actually happened. Good discipline doesn’t win Ashes, but they are scarcely found without it.

In the same vein, the Australians’ use of DRS is one of the most notable areas for improvement. Broad-gate would never have happened had Michael Clarke’s side not already used both of their reviews incorrectly. Clarke’s own use of the controversial system in the field requires a lot of work, but the Aussie skipper appears to have little control over his batsmen’s calls either.

Fans instinctively turned their heads to the third umpire’s big screen after any Shane Watson dismissal, and it appeared to take until the final Test for the number three to work out how to block with the bat rather than his leg.

Clarke undoubtedly made a bold declaration on the final day, but his leadership is far from unquestionable. He is one of the few men in the team that could get in any other side in the world, but it beggars the question of why he spent most of the Ashes batting at number five. Clarke should be leading from the front, perhaps not as an opening batsman, but at least at number three.

More to the point, Darren Lehmann must decide on a batting order. England make changes from time to time, but from one to eleven the order stays more or less the same. David Warner was gradually shifted up the order, but failed to impress.

In all fairness, there can be no denying that Australia are going through a transitional period with regards to top players coming through – something which would be difficult to sort out by December.

Warne, Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist, Hussey and McGrath have all hung up the baggy green cap since the 2005 Ashes, but Australia can no longer use this as an excuse, particularly considering their opposition.

England themselves have waved goodbye to Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff in that period but have focused enough on the county game to secure adequate replacements.

Behind the stumps, Brad Haddin looked a vastly improved player at the Oval but still has work to do to convince Lehmann he is a safe pair of hands.

England will undoubtedly go into the Ashes 'Down Under' as favourites, but it is in Lehmann’s hands to ensure his side restore some of the pride that was blitzed during Australia’s summer tour.

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The Ashes
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