Australia coach Darren Lehmann on Tuesday warned his batsmen that their Test careers were in jeopardy after a stunning collapse saw England to a third straight Ashes series win.
The tourists, who had to win the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street to keep alive hopes of squaring the series, were well-placed in pursuit of a target of 299 at 147 for one on Monday’s fourth day.
But they lost their last nine wickets for 77 runs in an extraordinary, albeit extended, final session as England, who had already retained the Ashes, won by 74 runs to take an unassailable 3-0 lead going into next week’s fifth and final Test at The Oval in south London.
Former Australia batsman Lehmann slammed the performance of his middle-order before indicating that only captain Michael Clarke and opener Chris Rogers, who made his maiden Test hundred in the first innings, were safe from the axe.
Asked if careers where in jeopardy, Lehmann replied: “Yep, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m happy for you to write whatever it is that you write there. To play for Australia, you’ve got to perform at a level that is acceptable for everyone in our team and also for the Australian public and the media.
“At the moment we’re not doing that, so blokes have got to perform at a level we expect.
“We’ve lost clumps of wickets which have really hurt us full stop,” added Lehmann, reflecting on a problem that has a played a major part in Australia losing seven of their last eight Tests.
“Blokes are missing straight ones, that doesn’t help. We have to learn from our mistakes. If they don’t learn, we’ll find blokes that will.
“No one’s guaranteed [their place]. Apart from probably [Michael] Clarke and [Chris] Rogers,” added Lehmann, who was appointed shortly before the start of the Ashes following the controversial sacking of Mickey Arthur.
Rogers, recalled after five years in the international wilderness, and Clarke, who made a brilliant 187 in the drawn third Test at Old Trafford, are the only specialist Australia batsmen to have scored Test hundreds in 2013.
What made Monday’s slump all the more cruel was that Australia had built a solid foundation thanks to a first-wicket stand of 109 between Rogers (49) and fellow left-hander David Warner (71).
However, after off-spinner Graeme Swann and seamer Tim Bresnan had made the initial inroads, Broad, whose six wickets for 50 runs on Monday helped him to a Test-best match haul of 11 for 121, took over and once Australia’s slide started it never looked like stopping.
“Some of the shot selection was poor. One for 150 I thought we’d get them comfortably two or three down, hopefully one down,” Lehmann said.
“That really hurts, that one. They bowled well, we batted really badly in the middle order, lower order.
“I thought Warner got a good ball to be fair, Clarke got a ripper and Rogers probably got a decent ball. The rest should have played a lot straighter and they know that.”
A frustrated Lehmann added: “There’s key moments in Test matches where we’re well in front of the game and we let it slip, so we need to learn that.
“Winning becomes a habit. We need to start winning and creating that and once we do that we’ll be fine.
“We’ll back them [the players] as we have and we’ll continue to back them but at the end of the day, performances count.”
Despite being 3-0 down, Lehmann maintained there was not much between the sides and that the return Ashes in Australia, starting in November, was far from a foregone conclusion.
“I personally think it’s a fine line from what I’ve seen but that’s just my personal opinion,” he said.
“The bowlers have done a really good job throughout the series to get the wickets we needed to get. On the batting side of it, we’ve lost clumps of wickets and haven’t played the way we want to play.”