Ashes: We look at some of the key questions facing Australia's selectors
We take a look at some of the selection issues facing Australia ahead of the return Ashes series.
Last Updated: 13/08/13 5:25pm
The calamitous collapse that saw them surrender this summer's series with a 74-run defeat in the fourth Test underlined their problems with the bat and led to coach Darren Lehmann to warn careers were now on the line.
It is not just the batsmen in the firing line, though, following seven defeats in Australia's past eight Tests.
We take a look at the four key issues Australia's selectors must consider ahead of the return series, which begins in Brisbane in November.
Are the batsmen good enough?
Mounting a case for the defence of Australia's batsmen is becoming increasingly more difficult with each collapse.
Captain Michael Clarke is the only world-class talent while Chris Rogers has proved this summer that he has the know-how, built on a 20,000 first-class runs, to prosper at the top level. Beyond that the cupboard appears to be bare.
Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith and Phil Hughes are regarded as the future yet all average below 33 in Tests. Throw in the under-performing Shane Watson and combined they have managed one Test century in three years.
The problem for Australia's selectors is there is no-one making a resounding argument to replace them in the domestic ranks.
Nic Maddinson was the best of the Australia A batsmen on their recent tour, but has a similarly gung-ho attitude to Smith and Hughes, while the likes of Alex Doolan, Joe Burns and Jordan Silk need to build on good seasons to provide confidence they might be genuine contenders.
Shaun Marsh and Callum Ferguson are players with experience but have struggled to adapt to the top level when given their chances.
Early-season runs before the first Test at the 'Gabba could fire any of them all into contention.
The opening question
Australia's flaky batting demands solidity at the top of the order.
Lehmann has backed veteran opener Rogers to remain and it would be a surprise if David Warner was not alongside him in Australia. The pair made the only century opening stand of the series so far before the carnage of Chester-le-Street.
One partnership hardly makes a firm case, however, and it was only at the start of the series that Lehmann was adamant that Watson must partner Rogers. Before that Warner, hardly a characteristically dour opener, spent two years opening with Ed Cowan.
Australia need stability and while Rogers has provided it - after five years in exile - he will be 36 when the return series begins.
Former opener Simon Katich was a year younger when he was deemed too old after the last Ashes series and dispensed with in favour of a youth policy. Three years on and Australia have come full circle.
Who is the best wicketkeeper?
The wicketkeeping role is indicative of Australia's predicament between selecting for the now or for the future.
Brad Haddin was brought in for this series to provide experience and cover at number seven below the middle order.
The 35-year-old has done that on occasion but it is arguable that Matthew Wade is a better batsman. Wade has two Test centuries and while his keeping has drawn criticism - especially on the turning dust bowls of India - he will be in familiar conditions this winter. Haddin's right-hand man relationship with Clarke will count in his favour, although some of his DRS calls may not.
In the background behind both men is Tim Paine, once thought of as a future leader, until a finger injury two seasons ago slowed his progress.
Who is the preferred spinner?
There has been no bigger question in Australian sport since Shane Warne's retirement in 2007. Thirteen spinners have come and gone since and arguably incumbent Nathan Lyon has been the best of those.
The off-spinner has a handy record of 84 wickets in 24 Tests and quietly went about out-bowling Graeme Swann at Chester-le-Street, grabbing seven wickets along the way.
It is his unassuming character that appears the only reason to be holding him back as Australia instead chase the spinning icon they crave to replace Warne's aura. Ashton Agar's batting earned him more rave reviews than his work-in-progress slow left-arm, while the hype over Fawad Ahmed is likely to return before the winter.
Ahmed is undoubtedly a talent and, after fleeing Pakistan to seek asylum in Australia, any success he has would genuinely be heart-warming. Whether Australia can afford to let the fairytale develop is debatable - especially when Lyon has already proved himself a solid foil for their world-class pace attack.