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A dark day for Australian cricket. -

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ABC cricket commentator, Jim Maxwell, joins the program to share his insights after a dark day in
Australian cricket history.


TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Here is a story about one of the darkest chapters in Australia's proud
cricket history.

The build-up to the Melbourne fourth test couldn't have been better scripted. With the Ashes poised
at one-all after Australia's crushing third test victory in Perth, it seemed the home side had
gained the momentum to steal the series. But it was not to be.

After Australia's embarrassing first innings of 98, the tourists made it look easy by scoring 513.

Facing such a massive deficit, Australia crumbled in its second innings with both skipper Ricky
Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke once again not producing runs when they were most needed.

At stumps Australia is still 246 runs behind with only four wickets in hand.

Barring rain, England will almost certainly retain the famous urn.

A short while ago I spoke to ABC cricket commentator Jim Maxwell at the MCG for his insights.

Well, Jim Maxwell, what's gone wrong for Australia?

JIM MAXWELL, ABC CRICKET COMMENTATOR: Well England have been too good, basically. They've been
better prepared, they've had better bowling, more reliable batting. Australia have only had one
game where they've clicked and that was because Mitchell Johnson swung the ball and led an
extraordinary performance by Australia on a bouncy wicket in Perth. But apart from that, in
Adelaide and here at the MCG, the Australian top order has crumbled. Ricky Ponting's averaging 16
for the series. That's an appalling performance for a batsman who's had such a high reputation in
the game. So, without going into all the gory detail, Australia have been outplayed by a better
led, organised and run team.

TRACY BOWDEN: Should the selectors bear some of the blame?

JIM MAXWELL: Well, in any situation they take credit as much as they take blame and I suppose you
could say that from the start of the series Australia made an error of judgment of not sticking
with Nathan Hauritz, their seasoned off-spinner who'd done so well for them in Australia in the
last couple of years. That may have been a mistake. But whichever way you look at the Australian
bowling, it's been the batting that's let them down. Bowled out for 245 on the first day in
Adelaide, and then, yes, on an unreliable pitch here for the first four hours in Melbourne, just
98. So those two performances have given England a tremendous amount of momentum to press on and
take the advantage. And that's been the real key for Australia. So it's hard to point the bone too
much at the selectors. Even now, if you look ahead, what are the alternatives for Australia? This
is a very good England team and they've outplayed Australia.

TRACY BOWDEN: Ricky Ponting is already a man under pressure. He's had a major form slump; then
there was yesterday's outburst. Is it time for a change in leadership for the Australian team?

JIM MAXWELL: It's coming. Not yet. He'll be leader in Sydney unless there's some spectacular
announcement from him, which I doubt because he's very keen to keep playing the game. And there's
the World Cup to come, and remember, Australia have won the last three one-day World Cups. And so
they're a chance of doing pretty well again there. But I think there'll be a review beyond the
World Cup, because it's not until August until Australia plays test match cricket again, and by
then they will have had a chance to look over what the alternatives are, whether in fact Ponting
wants to continue playing test cricket. So the review is coming, but not yet.

TRACY BOWDEN: You may say the same thing about this, but his deputy, Michael Clarke, also didn't
bat well today. Is his position under any kind of threat? Because he was always seen as a successor
for Ponting.

JIM MAXWELL: You'd like to think he's going to click into stride at some point. He's had an
ordinary series too. And he appears at times to be rattled by the pace bowling and has not been the
player that we've started to appreciate with his maturity. We know on-field as a leader, he has a
lot of ability. But his soap-operatic life away from the game may be an issue that those that
ratify these decisions about captaincy will consider. So, he is the heir apparent. Perhaps he needs
to do just a little bit more in the near future to confirm the belief amongst those involved in the
administration of the game that he is the person to take over from Ricky Ponting. So that ball's a
little bit in the air.

TRACY BOWDEN: So the big question which I imagine a lot of Australian cricket fans are asking
tonight: what changes are needed to get the Australian team back on top?

JIM MAXWELL: Well they have to find reliable batsmen. Maybe Ponting and Clarke can turn things
around with some sort of performance. I mean, Australia have not lost the series yet. They're
clearly going to lose here in Melbourne. But a win in Sydney would be two-all, even though it means
the Ashes have not been regained. So there's that to think of in the immediate term. There are not
a lot of alternatives it seems in terms of batsman and bowlers. There's no- one really staking a
massive claim through Sheffield Shield cricket. Usman Khawaja's name is there as a batsman. There
may be players like a Pattinson, or going back to Doug Bollinger, with now Ryan Harris out with an
unfortunate injury. And they've also got spin: where do they go there? Back to Hauritz or does
Michael Beer at last get a game after being 12th Man for two matches. So, the options are just a
bit skinny at this stage and Australia of course, they're playing from behind, they've lost a lot
of confidence and it's that self-belief that's normally sustained Australia in bad periods. And we
look to be going into a fairly grim period for the moment.

TRACY BOWDEN: Australia has in the past been viewed as I guess one of the toughest foes on the
international cricket circuit. There was a real aura about us that we were unbeatable over the
years at certain stages. Do you think we've lost that now?

JIM MAXWELL: Oh, we lost the aura a while ago when Warne and Hayden and Gilchrist and McGrath, when
they all left. We've become a beatable team. We're vulnerable. We as Australians who love out games
of cricket have to expect more defeats. It's just going to happen. We don't have the great players
anymore. And so, it'll be quite some time, I think, with players like young Phil Hughes and Steve
Smith and whoever else comes along before we build to the level we were before. We may have seen
the last golden age of our lifetime in Australian cricket. And we'll get more confirmation or
otherwise of that when we play in the World Cup in the subcontinent.

TRACY BOWDEN: Jim Maxwell, thanks for speaking to us.

JIM MAXWELL: Tracy, it's a pleasure.