Australia captain Michael Clarke called for an improved performance by his attack and was even harder on himself after an eight-wicket defeat by England in the third Test at Edgbaston left his side 2-1 down in the five-match Ashes series.
A remarkable match ended inside three days as England pacemen James Anderson and Steven Finn took six wickets each in below par Australia scores of 136 and 265 respectively on a seaming but far from unplayable pitch in Birmingham on Friday.
As a result, Australia’s bowlers didn’t have anything like sufficient runs to play with, particularly when England were chasing a modest target of 121 for victory.
That England needed a three-figure score to win was in large part down to the fact that Australia’s last three wickets added 97 runs between them on Friday.
This was a rebuke to Australia’s specialist batsmen, with opener David Warner (77) the only member of the top six to make a double-figure score in the innings.
Nevertheless, it was true that Australia’s attack lacked England’s accuracy, after their extra speed proved a trump card in the second Test at Lord’s where the tourists won by 405 runs on a placid pitch to square the series at 1-1.
“We had perfect bowling conditions. Overcast, a little bit of rain around and we just couldn’t hit the areas consistently,” Clarke said.
“The ball swung and seamed for the whole game. We had to be better than what we were,” he added ahead of next week’s fourth Test across the Midlands at Trent Bridge.
Mitchell Johnson, in the course of becoming just the fifth Australian to take 300 Test wickets, started Thursday’s second day in sensational fashion with a couple of sharply rising deliveries that had both Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes caught behind off the glove.
And fellow left-arm quick Mitchell Starc gave Australia a glimmer of hope on Friday when he bowled England captain and opening batsman Alastair Cook with a full and swinging ball for seven.
These though were rare highlights, and while Australia’s occasional waywardness at Lord’s was masked by the fact that they had already put a commanding 566 first-innings runs on the scoreboard it was a different story at Edgbaston.
Australia’s difficulties against the swinging and seaming ball have led to accusations their batsmen are “flat-track bullies”.