On Tuesday morning, Australia surrendered the much-anticipated series against South Africa before lunch, capitulating for 161 in 60.1 overs.
The sad thing was, Australia had worked hard to get back in the game on the third evening. Trailing by 241, Usman Khawaju scored a half-century as Australia reached 2/121 in 36 overs. There was finally hope: if Australia batted all day, they could set South Africa an awkward last day target. Then, who knows?
Yes, this is a great South African side; recovering from AB De Villiers and Dale Steyn’s absence and thrashing Australia inside eight days.
Now what’s next for Australia?
Getting rid of Rod Marsh was a good start. He was not popular with the public. At the very least, Marsh’s sacking shows fans that Cricket Australia are willing to change.
Regardless of what the Channel Nine cheerleaders say, this team has an image problem, which is a shame as Darren Lehmann is one of the most likeable coaches and Steve Smith (judged by his 48* in the horror first day at Hobart) shows more fight than some teammates. Fans have little respect for Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh or Mitch Marsh and are laughing at David Warner’s OLED TV ads rather than marvelling at his batting.
Maybe that’s the problem, they lack fight. Not counting last summer’s walkover against NZ and West Indies, Australia lost the 2o15 Ashes 3-2, lost 3-0 in Sri Lanka and 5-0 in the ODIs against South Africa. It’s a far cry from the late nineties to early noughties, when Australia were arrogantly untouchable home and away.
Adelaide will be crucial. Australia – with a few changes no doubt – must play better to get the public back onside. If Australia surrender again, the Pakistan series will fade away while the Big Bash dominates the hearts, minds and wallets of the public over the Christmas/New Year holidays. No amount of PR/marketing magic will convince fans to follow a broken team.