COACH Darren Lehmann has warned Australia’s faltering batsmen that careers are on the line after their spectacular collapse in the fourth Investec Test handed England a third consecutive Ashes series victory.
Australia lost nine wickets in an elongated final session, after initially seeming well-placed in their pursuit of 299 for a win to keep the series alive.
But instead of heading for the final Test at the Kia Oval next week with a shot at a 2-2 series draw, Australia’s batsmen will instead be tasked with resuscitating their international careers after the damaging 74-run loss.
Lehmann made the point in no uncertain terms in the wake of the Chester-le-Street capitulation, the latest in a series undermined by performances with the bat.
Lehmann blasted his middle order - Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin who all fell in a mad hour inspired by Stuart Broad - before promising only captain Michael Clarke and opener Chris Rogers safety from the chop.
Asked if careers where in jeopardy, Lehmann said: “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.
“Blokes are missing straight ones, that doesn’t help.
“We have to learn from our mistakes. We didn’t learn from probably (the first Test at) Trent Bridge when we got bowled out in similar circumstances so from our point of view, the blokes have got to learn.
“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.”
Rogers and Clarke sit only behind Ian Bell in the list of run scorers in this series and, most tellingly, are the only specialist Australia batsmen to have scored a century in 2013.
After Rogers’ maiden hundred in the first innings at Emirates Durham ICG the veteran, brought back into the side for this series after five years, combined with David Warner in the first century opening stand of the series yesterday.
Their 109-run partnership laid the foundations of a chase that still appeared well within reach even when Warner (71) was third man out with 131 required.
But from there Broad took charge and an all too familiar Australian panic set in.
“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.”
The emotion of Australia’s defeat was punctuated further after they had, not for the first time in the series, blown a dominant position.
It is a situation that has started to become a hallmark of this Australian team - they have now lost seven of their past eight Tests - and Lehmann admitted forgetting how to win has become a problem.
“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,” he said.
“Winning becomes a habit, we need to start winning and creating that and once we do that we’ll be fine.
“I think they’ve fought really hard and shown glimpses of challenging a really good side, but we haven’t done that consistently enough.
“We’ll back them as we have and we’ll continue to back them but at the end of the day, performances count.”
Despite now trailing the series 3-0, Lehmann believes there is little between the his side and England, offering some optimism ahead of this winter’s return series.
“I personally think it’s a fine line from what I’ve seen, but that’s just my personal opinion,” he said.
“I think when you find a side that have led at stages in games and actually pushed them, that we’re quite competent at playing against this side.
“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.”