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Pressure mounts on Australian team in crisis

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HOBART: Critics ripped into the Australian cricket team Sunday after yet another ignominious batting collapse in the second Test against South Africa in Hobart.

With rain likely to prevent any play on Sunday’s second day, the mood matched the gloomy weather as the cricket commentariat bemoaned the increasing regularity of Australia’s batting disasters with no likelihood of any improvement ahead of next year’s Ashes series Down Under.

The Proteas skittled the Australians for just 85 off 32.5 overs on a seaming Bellerive pitch on Saturday for a record-low home total against South Africa.

It followed the stunning first innings collapse of 10 for 86 in the first Test in Perth when Australia squandered a 158-run opening stand to surrender meekly to the Proteas by 177 runs.

Critics pointed to other recent dark days in Australian cricket and the nightmares of their miserable 47 in Cape Town in 2011 and England’s demolition for 60 at Trent Bridge last year.

Coach Darren Lehmann admitted Australia’s batting was in crisis, telling reporters: “When you get bowled out for 85, it probably is, isn’t it? For us it’s a case of actually getting better and we lost 10-86 last Test match.”

Pressure continues to mount on Lehmann — who only received a lucrative three-year contract extension in Sri Lanka at the start of Australia’s four-match losing run — and on most of Australia’s top-order batsmen.

“Cape Town, Birmingham, Nottingham, Galle, and now Hobart. Like falling cities in a losing war, the scenes of Australia’s cricket disasters have come to our doorstep,” The Sun-Herald’s Malcolm Knox wrote.

– ‘Irreversible’ decline –

“The geography of decline presents a case that cannot be denied. In Australia’s case, the team failures have become frequent enough to suggest that the decline is irreversible.”

Another Fairfax columnist Greg Baum said it was the fifth time in the past six years that Australia had been bowled out for fewer than 100.

“The rout was all too predictable. Some batsmen were helpless, some were hapless, one, the first (David Warner), was reckless,” he said.

The Australian newspaper warned fretful Aussie cricket fans of the challenges an Ashes tour in England pose for their suspect batsmen.

“The next away Ashes hardly bears contemplating. Today (Saturday) at Bellerive was as close as you can get to English conditions,” Andrew Faulkner said.

“Australia failed just as they did when confronted with the swinging ball last year.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation illuminated the confusion inside the national cricket team, from selectors to coaches to the players.

“Right now, confusion reigns in Australian cricket. On Saturday it was just another innings falling apart, a sight now so familiar as to seem standard,” the ABC said.

“Confusion is not a problem confined to just the field. Decisions are taken hastily, inconsistently. Flawed reasoning underpins them. A clear thought process is rarely evident.”

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