Captain Michael Clarke pin-pointed Australia’s first-innings capitulation at Lord’s as the most telling moment en-route to conceding the Ashes after just 14 days of cricket.
Rain on the final day of the third Investec Test in Manchester yesterday ensured England, 2-0 ahead in the five-match series, got the draw they required to retain the famous little urn.
Australia have not conceded the Ashes this early in a series since 1929 and while they were left frustrated by yesterday’s weather – after dominating for the most part at Emirates Old Trafford – Clarke conceded that past errors had come home to roost.
Most significant of those was the 128 they were skittled out for in the second Test at Lord’s – a performance Clarke said hurt as much as their horror 47 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2011.
“The way we batted in the first innings at Lord’s hurt me as much as anything has in my career, certainly as captain,” said Clarke.
“We got bowled out for 47 against South Africa but at least that wicket was seaming and swinging. I thought the Lord’s wicket was a fantastic batting wicket in the first innings.
“We haven’t performed anywhere as well as we would have liked.
“I think we’ve shown in this Test match that we are here for the challenge and the fight.
“There’s no doubt our goal and my goal was to come here and win the Ashes and that hasn’t happened. I can guarantee everyone in that changing room is hurting.”
Clarke paid credit to Alastair Cook’s side for retaining the Ashes – albeit in anti-climactic circumstances after the weather had spared them a final-day battle with the bat.
Australia had been fed a glimmer of hope when play started at 11.30am – against all forecasted predictions – and after Clarke immediately declared with a 331-run advantage they reduced a nervy England to 37-3 in 20.3 overs.
But the expected rain eventually settled in before umpires Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill officially abandoned the match at 4.39pm.
“Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I thought we were in a pretty good position, there’s no doubt about that,” said Clarke.
“The plan was to have somewhere between 20-25 overs at England last night and then come and use as many of the 90 overs (on the final day) to try and bowl them out.
“That wasn’t the case. It’s unfortunate from an Australian perspective and all the boys in the room are quite disappointed with not being able to get over the line.
“But in saying that I certainly don’t want to take any credit away from England. They outplayed us in the first two Test matches, especially at Lord’s.
“You know when you come to the UK there is a chance that rain is going to play a part throughout the series. Getting ourselves into the position of being 2-0 down – it was always going to be tough coming back from that.”
Australia will now be tasked with trying to square a series that moves to the Emirates Durham ICG in Chester-le-Street on Friday.
Clarke believes the improvements made this week, especially among his batsmen, ensure Australia are capable of doing just that and earning a confidence-boost ahead of the return series Down Under this winter.
“That’s definietly our goal,” he said. “If we can level the series we will take a lot of confidence back to Australia.
“I’m confident if we play the type of cricket that we have through the four days here that we will give it a real good shake.
“We’ve got some work to do over the next few days to make sure we are as well prepared as we were leading into this Test match. We need to play with the same attitude, intent and I’m confident we can have success.”
Clarke also backed his quick bowlers to be ready in Durham, despite the likes of Ryan Harris previously having problems backing up for quick turnarounds between Tests.
“Not bowling much today certainly helped them and gave them a day off,” he said. “I’m confident they are in good hands. Our physio has been outstanding in getting guys on the park and he’ll be working overtime to give ourselves the best chance of picking our best XI.”