As if a 347-run thrashing by England were not enough, Cricket Australia found themselves on Sunday having to respond to further remarks from the coach they sacked, Mickey Arthur, and to quell the storm created by derogatory tweets, credited to David Warner’s brother, about opening batsman Shane Watson.
England’s problems are minor by comparison. They are not certain whether Kevin Pietersen, who has a calf strain, will be fit for the Third Investec Test at Old Trafford, which starts on 1 August, but they appear well-equipped to cope in his absence.
After six successive Test defeats, Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, was asked whether he would emulate Kim Hughes and resign in tears. “I presume that won’t happen,” said his inquisitor. “Presume nothing!” replied Clarke, but with a smile that suggested he was not about to follow this course of action.
“Our performance with the bat in the first innings (when Australia were bowled out for 128) was unacceptable,” Clarke admitted. “Our shot selection was poor and we didn’t have the discipline England had.
“I’m still confident we can win the series. I heard a lot of the crowd laugh when I said that at the post-match presentation, and rightly so from where I sit today. England have outplayed us.
“I never like losing, that’s for sure. It’s been extremely tough to take whenever I have been part of a team who have lost, and I take it more personally when I am captain. We had a great chance after bowling England out for 361 in the first innings and we let ourselves down.
“There will be times where you feel comfortable and times where the opposition bowl well and you have to respect that and back your defence. We haven’t done that with the bat.
“We have to acknowledge that we are not performing as well as we would like. There are so many people who are supporting us and we have let them down.”
The difficulties away from the Ashes series continue. Arthur, sacked 16 days before the series started, is seeking compensation from Cricket Australia and said today he had “no option” but to act this way. The board responded: “We are confident in our legal position.”
Warner, meanwhile, is currently with the Australia A tour of southern Africa but he was involved in another controversy. After dismissive remarks about Watson were attributed to his brother’s Twitter account, a second CA statement, made on Warner’s behalf, read: “Earlier this week, my brother Steven Warner published a Tweet about Shane Watson. Like everyone, he is entitled to his opinions but I want to state categorically that I do not endorse his comments and fully support Shane and all my team-mates.”
For Alastair Cook, life is far rosier. England lead 2-0 in the Ashes for the first time since 1986-87. He said: “Can we win 5-0? I don’t know about that. Hopefully. It’s a winning habit. We’ve played four Tests this summer and we have four wins. Good place to be. We’re not taking anything for granted or taking our foot off the gas.”
Joe Root was man of the match for his 180 in the second innings, and the wickets of Clarke and Usman Khawaja yesterday afternoon.
If Pietersen is unfit, Cook will feel reassured with century-makers Root and Ian Bell, in such fine form.
“Kevin is a concern,” said Cook. “He has a slight strain of his calf, and we will work non-stop to try to get him ready for Old Trafford. Hopefully he will be fit. It leaves a big hole if he’s not there but gives someone else a chance to step up.
“Joe Root has the right character for international cricket, as well as the technique. He is nowhere near the finished article but he is doing a difficult job very well.”