ASHES LATEST: Agony increases for woeful England in Sydney

HEAD FIRST: Yorkshire's Gary Ballance impressed on debut in a difficult situation in Sydney for England - even taking a blow to his helmet from Mitchell Johnson.
HEAD FIRST: Yorkshire's Gary Ballance impressed on debut in a difficult situation in Sydney for England - even taking a blow to his helmet from Mitchell Johnson.
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England’s latest batting collapse left Graham Gooch admitting all personnel must prove they are capable of much better if they are to earn the right to stay on after the “debris” of their Ashes tour.

The batting coach and former Test captain included himself in the same category as he acknowledged players and management alike will be under scrutiny after England steered an ever more direct course to a whitewash at the SCG.

England were bowled out for just 155 on day two, before Chris Rogers (73no) helped Australia to 140 for four and a lead already - by stumps on day two of this final Test - of 311 runs.

On an awkward pitch, Alastair Cook’s lbw dismissal to the second delivery of the morning to Ryan Harris set the tone.

Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle each took three wickets, while only Ben Stokes and, briefly, Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance, provided any worthwhile resistance.

Sadly for England, and an embarrassed Gooch, it was merely a continuation of similarly shambolic performances in each of the preceding Tests.

“Our players have not met the challenge with the bat, obviously,” he said.

“We’ve not competed as we’d have liked to and not shown the skills that have been necessary ... we’ve gifted too many wickets.

“Therefore we have only one hundred in four-and-a-bit Tests, and that’s not going to win you anything.”

The upshot, Gooch accepts, is that - despite assurances from their employers that the roles of Cook and coach Andy Flower, at least, are not in jeopardy - the pressure is on for one and all.

“Everyone has to look at themselves - the coaches, the players,” he said.

“We’re all going to be under scrutiny, quite rightly, and we all have to take it on the chin - and we have to take the criticism.

“If you play the way we play, the brutal truth is it’s not been good enough.

“We have to look for ways to move forward and ways to improve - and that might entail taking some more pain before it gets better.”

Gooch, still England’s record Test runscorer, added: “Personally, I have total belief in the messages I give to the players.

“But we’ll have to look at it and see whether there’s a better way, or the powers-that-be will definitely be reviewing everyone after this series.”

Cook’s shot, or lack of it, was that of an individual bearing the weight of responsibility in adversity.

“When things have gone the way they have ... there is more pressure, and you feel more responsible as a captain,” said Gooch.

“I know that feeling ... it’s particularly poignant when it happens like that at the beginning of the day when you’re trying to set the tone and you’re trying to lead from the front.

“I wouldn’t say he made that mistake purely because he’s captain and he’s under pressure, but it’s been a problem for us all through the tour.

“You make mistakes and sadly we’ve made too many.”

Cook is one of several senior batsmen who have been unable to raise their game, as Australia have taken complete control.

Gooch cited very good Test match bowling from the hosts as one reason, but said as well: “You’d still expect players of that calibre, with that record behind them, to score a proportion of runs - and they’ve not been able to do it.

“If things don’t improve then everyone’s position is going to be under scrutiny.

“That goes for players. If you don’t perform, ultimately you get left out.

“Everyone [here] would not like to leave under these circumstances ... and the debris of this tour.

“I can’t speak for everyone but I’d be surprised if everyone didn’t want to put things right.”

Harris’ assessment of the state of play was doubtless not intended as any consolation for England.

Even so, his words would make grim reading should any of the tourists dare to take a peak.

“Day two, 300-plus lead - it’s a pretty good position to be in,” he said.

“I don’t think the wicket is getting any easier ... if we bowl like we did today we’ll go all right.

“(Brad) Haddin said that - although he made it look pretty easy [batting in the first innings] - when the ball is fuller, he felt it had his name on and he could have nicked it at any time.

“Shane Watson said big cracks are opening up under the grass ... what you want to hear when you’ve got 300 on the board!”

Harris was not taking the whitewash for granted, however, and added: “It’s obviously not a done thing yet ... we figure they’re going to fire at some stage.”

It is a moot point whether Gooch still retained the same sliver of faith.