A bitter, harsh reality has just set over Australian cricket. The country that once thrived on the underdog tag, that rarely crumbled in the face of pressure and adversity, and lived for the grind of an old-fashioned dogfight, is now dormant.
What’s worse is the gloating, crowing English cricket media such as Sir Ian Botham who claimed the only thing standing in the way of a 10-0 Ashes double romp would be the inclement British weather, could in fact be right.
Of course the obvious answer to an oh so obvious problem is a lack of batting power coming through Australia’s top and middle order, stemmed from minimal options at domestic level. Another could be poor planning on Cricket Australia’s behalf to not prepare the next generation of world-class players to take the reigns from Hayden, Ponting, Gilchrist and Langer.
The same thing may happen to England when the likes of Bell, Pietersen, Cook and Trott move on, but as the cricketing world stands up and takes notice of the disheveled batting line-up they see before them, surely will be taking notes on how not to pass the superpower baton on down the generational line.
But this is not a opportunity to berate and embarrass an already under the pump team. This is a compassionate plea to cricketing fans around the country to keep the faith.
To switch off now and concentrate your attention on rugby, NRL or AFL would be unpatriotic. To concede Australia is simply not good enough to take down the old enemy, pure nonsense. For where there is Michael Clarke, there are runs to be had.
He is simply too much a world-class batsman not to make a big score at Old Trafford. The rest of his batting Bretheren will be hurting, badly. And surely, surely there is a ton awaiting someone on the top four, and a partnership or Waugh brothers proportions to come from anywhere but the tenth wicket.
On the bowling front there is not too much to concern ourselves with. Sure James Pattinson has been ruled out with injury, but after a disappointing Lord’s Test may have found himself on drink duty anyway.
Of more importance is the depth of those in waiting, with James Faulkner, Jackson Bird and Mitchell Starc all desperate to leave their mark on England, while the introduction of Nathan Lyon for the Ashton Agar could be just what the tweaking doctors ordered on a Manchester pitch expected to spin.
Matthew Wade has an opportunity to force himself into the top six with a big score against Sussex, and it should not be forgotten he has scored as many Test centuries in 12 matches, as Shane Watson has in 43.
Australia is a mess, plain and simple, but fairy tales are not written overnight.
Keep the faith, and thou shalt be rewarded.