England stand on the brink of total Ashes embarrassment after suffering an eight-wicket defeat to Australia in the fourth Test at the MCG.
Alastair Cook's side are now 4-0 down in the five-match series, with their old rivals needing just one more win in Sydney to complete a whitewash, a scenario which barely seemed credible at the start of the tour.
But Australia have dominated the series from the start and lowered England's morale still further by chasing down 231 to wrap up the win on day four in Melbourne.
After the tourists' second-innings collapse on the third day, the contest was left finely poised with Australia resuming on 30-0 knowing they needed to close out the highest last-innings run chase at the MCG in 51 years.
In the end they made it over the line for the loss of just two wickets, opener Chris Rogers stealing the show with a fine century.
With all the momentum on the side of the hosts and the Australian public baying for a whitewash, England have a lot to reflect on before the start of the final Test at the SCG on January 3.
Virtually all of the England players have come in for criticism at one point or another during the series, but as captain of the side Alastair Cook has had to fend off tougher questions than most. While he may have assuaged some of the doubts over his performance with the bat with a half-century in the second innings, the way he has led his team on tour is still under scrutiny. Cook accepts that he is ultimately responsible for the under-performance of his side but is certain that he wants to continue in the role. "If, at the end of the series, the selectors decide I'm not the best man for the job then so be it," Cook said. "It would hurt, and I've got no plans of going anywhere."
Not many expected an Australia side who were beaten 3-0 by England just four months ago to be favourites for a whitewash with one Test remaining in the current series. Not even, it seems, the Australia captain Michael Clarke. The hosts claimed a first Ashes series win in seven years after playing with unrelenting aggression and confidence, but even they seem a little surprised by just how clear their dominance has been. "With the team we have and the amount of work the guys have put in for a long time, I certainly had faith we would win the series," Clarke said. "But to be 4-0 up... It's hard to describe."
'Time for changes'
England have altered their side before each of the last three Tests in a bid to find a spark which could turn the series around, but so far the alarming slide has showed no signs of abating. Sky Sports expert Sir Ian Botham believes further changes should be made, however, pinpointing Boyd Rankin as the man who should be brought in. England brought three towering seamers to Australia to try and exploit the extra bounce Down Under but, apart from a lacklustre appearance from Chris Tremlett in Brisbane, none of them have even been selected. "You have to do something," Botham said. "I'm not saying change the whole team but if a football manager lost four games like that being hammered, he wouldn't even have a job."
What went wrong?
The inquest goes on after yet another tame performance by England and there were plenty of theories offered up by the Sky Sports experts after play had concluded at the MCG. Andrew Strauss, who was still captain of the side just over a year ago, thinks that the poor form of the senior batsmen is to blame. "You're not going to win a series if your big name players don't turn up and perform," he said. "They all got out of form in the English summer and they haven't found a way to turn it around." Nasser Hussain, meanwhile, thinks the departures of Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and Matt Prior for various reasons have left England with a dearth of experienced talent. He said: "Looking at yesterday, Cook and Pietersen were playing in a world XI and at the other end I wouldn't like to describe who was batting to be honest."
Man of the day
Chris Rogers claimed the honours on day four after his composed century laid the foundations for Australia's success. The veteran opener was handed an unexpected recall for the series in the English summer and impressed the selectors sufficiently enough to retain his place at the top order in Australia. Although his form has not quite hit the same heights as it did in England, Rogers stepped up to the plate in the fourth Test to hit a match-winning 116. With Australia closing in on victory he was able to celebrate his first Test century on home soil, a moment the 36-year-old would have been forgiven for thinking would never come.