FOR a team that during a period of four or so years under, first, Andrew Strauss and then Alastair Cook had become used to winning, this winter has come as a big jolt to the system.
Losing an Ashes series is bad enough but to do so by five Tests to nil is something that has hurt us all, especially as we had set off for Australia in such a determined and confident mood.
We had won the Ashes 3-0 at home in the summer, while the previous winter had brought our first series victory in India for 28 years. Everyone in the touring party was confident of continuing that run of success.
As we all know now, however, that hasn’t been possible and defeat in the fifth Test at Sydney rounded off a hugely disappointing series for us all.
After going 4-0 down in Melbourne, we’d all had a very good talk. It was very constructive. We identified the fact that we want to play a freer form of cricket and that was the attitude the squad took to Sydney, where we hoped to at least salvage a bit of pride by winning a Test match.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out like that and Australia’s seam attack again proved our undoing.
After losing 5-0, we are at rock bottom. I really don’t think it is possible to get any lower than this as a Test side. The only positive, if you can call it that, is that a result like this did not happen at home.
The simple truth is we have not done ourselves justice. We have just not played well enough and everyone is fully aware of that.
With hindsight, it probably goes back to last summer. Even though we beat Australia 3-0 in England, we probably didn’t play well enough across the series. In many ways, the result flattered us.
Once out here, things didn’t go to plan and the momentum swung firmly the way of the home team. As a result, we were out-bowled, out-batted and out-played.
Having said that, this isn’t a crisis in English cricket, as some are painting it to be. As a team, we had an unbelievable run where we won a lot of Test matches over a four-year period.
In contrast, this has been a bad series. No-one is in any doubt about that. But it is also, let’s not forget, one series. And from the position of being rock bottom, we can build good foundations to turn things round.
That is certainly the thinking of the management and captain. They know things will need to change because we have let not only ourselves down but also the fans, both those who are out here and those who have been staying up into the early hours hoping to see us perform on television.
We have to put this right and we have to come back from this. There is a real hunger to do just that.
In that respect, this does feel like the ending of an era. There are likely to be personnel changes around the corner and the make-up of the team may change. But, hopefully, I can stick around.
This is an exciting time and an exciting period for English Test cricket. And I very much want to be part of this team going forward.
In that respect, not being selected for the final Test in Sydney was very disappointing. The selectors wanted to go for pace and bounce rather than have me trying to keep it tight at one end by going for one or two runs an over.
That is professional sport and I had no complaint with the decision. And I was as gutted by the result as anyone, as I was desperate for us to get a win for not only the group, but also all our supporters.
Every cricketer wants to play for their country and I am no different. I take huge pride every time I play for England so to miss out on the final Test was a blow.
But I am the first to admit that I haven’t bowled to my potential out here. Maybe I needed a few more warm-up games to get myself back into the sort of form I know I am capable of, I don’t know.
What I do know, though, is how desperate I am to get back into the Test team when we next play in the summer against Sri Lanka and India.
Things can change very quickly in cricket. The Australians are proof of that. After losing three consecutive Ashes series, they were hurting badly. We could see that, never more so than after losing to us at home in 2010-11.
After that 3-1 series win, we felt on top of the world. Now, though, it is the Australians taking the plaudits after playing some very good cricket and their seam attack being second to none in this series.
Our attempt to pull off a similar change of fortune starts tomorrow with the start of the five-match one-day series. We have to start well. We need to wrestle back the momentum from Australia and that is what we will be going out to do. Australia obviously did something similar at the end of last summer by bouncing back from a 3-0 defeat to win the one-dayers. They then took that momentum into this winter’s Ashes.
We must now do the same and set ourselves up for a year that sees us play a lot of one-day cricket with the T20 World Cup following a short tour of the West Indies.
Bearing in mind that schedule – and don’t forget the World Cup takes place early next year in Australia and New Zealand – it will be good to have a sustained run of one-day games. They really come thick and fast so that offers an opportunity for us to get into a rhythm.
In a one-day series that follows a run of Test matches between the same two teams, it can often be the case of results being reversed. I remember when we won the Ashes out here in 2010-11, Australia then came really hard at us once we switched to the one-dayers.
Having a different team and a different format can bring new energy. That can lead to a change of fortunes. I certainly believe it was a factor in how Australia turned things round in 2013.
From that one-day series win last September, they took confidence into a short tour of India and played some really good cricket.
All the while, they were building momentum and, as we have seen this winter, that can play such a big part in sport.
The challenge now is to build our own momentum and set ourselves up for the coming 12 months.
n Interview: Richard Sutcliffe.