Australia in SA
Oz shell-shocked by collapse
Michael Clarke (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Australian cricket was shaken to its core by the nature of its eight-wicket loss to South Africa, leaving new captain Michael Clarke questioning the team's fighting spirit and blasting its spectacularly bad performance.
Just four tests into his reign, Clarke said he'd never experienced a more disappointing loss in his 73-test career than on Friday in Cape Town.
"I'm hoping that's as bad as it gets in my career," he said.
Australia's capitulation at Newlands saw it throw away a dominant first-innings lead in a scarcely believable batting collapse and then — in the words of Clarke — fail to fight hard enough in the field to stop South Africa romping to victory.
Clarke criticized Australia's allround display after one of the most traumatic test defeats for cricket's former power, but Australia's lack of fight on the final day was telling for a team which prides itself on a never-say-die mantra.
"I would have liked to see us fight a bit harder today and have a bit more of a crack," Clarke said. "(It's) about looking into each other's eyes and finding the courage to see where you let the team down."
The skipper — whose magnificent 151 in the first innings was made meaningless by Australia's disastrous 47 all out in the second — could now oversee a significant shift for the game's most successful team with the long-term futures of veterans Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin in doubt.
It's not farfetched to predict that former skipper Ponting — undoubtedly one of Australia's great batsmen — and Haddin could be playing their final series.
Asked if Australia needed to make changes for the second test in Johannesburg next week, Clarke answered: "I've got to get through today first.
"I've got to sit and have a look at exactly what's happened and communicate with the guys in the team firstly, that's my priority, and then also I'm sure I'll have a couple of messages on my phone from selectors, so I'm going to need to speak to them."
Barely two months since starting Clarke's captaincy with a series win in Sri Lanka — and moving on from an Ashes grilling by England under Ponting — the heat's back on Australia.
It underperformed in every aspect in the three days against South Africa, Clarke said.
"I don't want to hide away from the fact of how bad we played in our second innings but I also don't want to hide away from the fact that if we had made 600 in our second innings, the way we came out and bowled today ... we still would have been a chance of losing," Clarke said.
"Every single one of us needs to be disappointed, for good reason. When you lose like that, you don't just let yourself down, you let the people who support your team down. The people who want to see the Australian cricket team do well and get back on top ... we let them down."