Saturday 16 December 2017 / 11:50 PM

AUSSIES IN CRISIS AFTER ANOTHER COLLAPSE

The embattled Australian cricket plunged into full-on crisis this morning after yet another extraordinary batting collapse that saw South Africa wrap up the second Test by an innings and 80 runs.

Resuming their second innings at 2/121 on Day 4 at Blundstone Arena, were all out for just 161 in just 24.1 overs of play on Tuesday as pace duo Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada ran riot.

After Abbott had Usman Khawaja (64) out caught behind, the Australian middle order folded like origami.

Adam Voges (2) put his place in the side in serious jeopardy, debutant Callum Ferguson (1) went cheaply again and wicket-keeper Peter Nevill (6) wasn’t able to replicate his fighting innings from the first Test.

First-Test man-of-the-match Rabada was unstoppable, removing Ferguson, Nevill, Joe Mennie (0) and Steve Smith (31) in the space of 22 balls, finishing with 4/34 from 17 overs.

But it was Abbott who took out the gong in this rout, notching 6/77 thanks to the final two wickets of Mitchell Starc (0) and Nathan Lyon (2). Called up to make his eighth Test appearance following Dale Steyn’s series-ending injury, Abbott carved out match figures of 9/118.

So where to for Darren Lehmann’s Australian side ahead of the third Test in Adelaide, starting next Thursday?

Dropping the Marsh brothers and blooding Ferguson and Mennie (who replaced the injured Peter Siddle) failed to provide any improvement.

Joe Burns wasted his opportunity with a total of 1 run off 12 deliveries after coming in for Shaun Marsh as David Warner’s opening partner, while Voges’ record-breaking efforts of last summer are a distant memory, averaging 11.22 in his last nine Test innings.

The Aussie bowlers are toiling hard – Josh Hazlewood bowled beautifully in South Africa’s innings – though Nathan Lyon is battling for form and could be another casualty with Steve O’Keefe gagging for another opportunity.

The meek and reckless manner of the Australian batsmen’s dismissals in the two thrashings at the hands of the Proteas is arguably the most concerning aspect of the team’s decline, while confidence is at an all-time low across the board.

Skipper Smith, a rare shining light for the home side in this Test, did his best to avoid appearing totally forlorn with his team’s plight.

“Stick with us, we’re doing our best,” Smith pleaded.

“We’re trying to turn it around and we’ve obviously got a lot of work to do to do that, but we’re working hard. We’ve just got to find ways to be successful out in the middle and a little bit more resilient.

“Obviously this series is gone now, we’ve been outplayed in these first two Test matches but for us we’ve got a lot to play four. We’ve lost out last five Test matches and we’re better than that. We’ve got to turn it around and find a way to win. We’ve got to work hard and play a lot better cricket in Adelaide.

“(Changes) is obviously up to the selectors but when you lose five Test matches in a row things are going to be talked about. We’ve got to find ways to get this Australian team over the line and start playing some better cricket.”

Australia has now lost five straight Tests (3-0 in Sri Lanka and now 2-0 against South Africa at home), with a 5-0 ODI series defeat to the Proteas sandwiched in the middle.

This latest loss represents rock-bottom, however. Australia has only suffered two heavier innings defeats at home in the past 30 years, both to England in the disastrous 2010/11 Ashes campaign.

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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