Australia has recovered to be 2/121 at stumps on day three of the second Test against South Africa in Hobart, after South Africa was all out for 326 -- a first innings leads of 241. The Proteas now lead by 120. The scorecard is here.
Conceivably, we could still make a match of this. But don't let our minor resurgence fool you. If there's one thing we've learned this summer, it's that there are huge structural flaws in Australian cricket. You want problems? We've got problems. These are the big ones.
1. We can't even beat the mediocre teams
We're getting towelled up, yet this is not even the best South Africa team. Its best bowler, Dale Steyn, and best batsman, AB de Villiers, are both out injured. And in case you didn't know, this South African team was hardly on fire before it came to Australia. Before this tour, it had won just one of its previous four Test series. And don't forget, Australia was beaten 3-0 in Sri Lanka at our previous Test outing in August. We are reaching a very low ebb here.
2. We have no bowling depth
Australia has three of the best bowlers in the world in Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Problem is, Lyon looks temporarily out of sorts. He has now taken a combined 0-203 in his last two innings. When two bowlers fire -- as Hazlewood and Starc generally have -- it's not enough without support. As for Australia's fourth bowler, hmmmm. Is Joe Mennie the answer? On his first showing, you'd have to be doubtful.
3. And only three batsmen
Take Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and Dave Warner out of the lineup and you have a grade cricket strength batting order. Which might be a little harsh on grade cricket.
4. One of whom keeps getting out in silly ways
Temba Bavuma's run-out of Dave Warner in Perth will go down in cricket folklore. Yet you feel that if Warner had run harder, he'd have made it. Then came Warner's waft at a wide ball in the first innings here in Hobart, and his soft dismissal in the second innings, bowled off his pads. He's still scoring runs, but he needs to be harder to get out.
5. The keeper is not contributing
Peter Nevill: Likeable guy, invisible contributor. With just three fifties and no centuries in 21 Test innings, Nevill, 31, is a player who just doesn't do enough with the bat to justify a spot in the team. Look at Quinton de Kock, who made a polished 104 for South Africa on Monday morning. Beautiful batsman. Doesn't dominate like Gilchrist used to, but scores swiftly and fluidly nonetheless. Took a great catch too. Nevill right now is Nevill Nobody.
6. The preparation for this series was no good
Incredible but true: Australia's cricketers played no red ball cricket before this Test series. That's because there was only one Sheffield Shield round ahead of it, and it was a day/night pink ball round -- designed so that players could acclimatise to the pink ball which will be used in the two day/night Tests scheduled for later this summer. Which brings us to the fact that...
7. The scheduled is stuffed
This is no one's fault, but it's an undeniable fact. Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland is trying to revamp the international schedule. It's a long, convoluted issue, but the main gist is this: We play too much cricket (when you include all three forms). Sutherland eventually wants some sort of league table where Tests and Test series counts towards an ongoing championship. But for now, Test series are shoe-horned in wherever they can fit. And that's why there's sometimes not enough preparation time, as per Point 6.
8. The batting coach is, ummmm...
Two months ago, when former England player Graeme Hick was announced as Australia's new batting coach, despite often failing against Australia, we opened our news story thus:
"Graeme Hick is Australia's new batting coach. Here's hoping he does a better job for Australia than he did against us."
The jury is out for now, but it's a jury with a very short attention span.
9. The high performance coach is, errrrrr...
Pat Howard's contract is up next June. It remains unclear to most what his contribution has been.
10. Our tail no longer wags
Australia used to routinely add 100 or more runs once we were six wickets down. Not even our top order contributes that much anymore.
11. There's no team stability
Selectors signalled their desire to create a sense of confidence among players, by picking the same squad for the first two Tests this summer. That way, players would play for the team, rather than for their spot, or so the logic went. Didn't work. There were three changes after Perth, and even if two of them were due to injury, it has created yet more instability. Steve Smith has now had 23 players in his team in his 16-match tenure as captain. That's a really high turnover.
12. And most miserably of all, there's a sad lack of available talent
This is the biggie. There's just not the quality replacements out there. The question is why? Too many players growing up on the Froot Loops diet of T20 rather than the muesli of long form cricket? There's a decent yarn here on the available batsmen who might be up for a Test nod if yet another batsman is dropped. Scarily, most of them average in the 30s in state cricket. Oh for the days when guys with 50+ averages couldn't break into the Aussie team.
So having gotten this far, would you like the good news or the bad news? The bad news is we're playing Pakistan later this summer, who are rated second on the official ICC test rankings. The good news is we couldn't think of any more bad news. For now.