The English press mocked Australia’s chances of regaining the Ashes later this year following their pitiful performance in being skittled for 88 by Pakistan at Headingley.
England have not won an Ashes series in Australia since 1986/87 but even the most negative of local hacks couldn’t help reflect the growing optimism in English cricket.
“Any chance we can play you for the Ashes now, Ricky?” said the back page of The Daily Mail.
“The Best Day of Summer – Looking good for Ashes as Ponting flops are battered,” beamed the The Daily Mirror.
The Sun was more to the point in its headline: “Humili88ed”.
The Times took a different slant, suggesting Pakistan would provide England with a tougher Test in their upcoming four-Test series than Australia later on this year.
“Good news: Australia are in disarray. Bad news: we play Pakistan next.”
There was plenty of criticism for Ricky Ponting’s decision to bat first under heavy cloud cover in Leeds and almost every paper ran a photo of the skipper’s unhappy face following his dismissal.
It was Australia’s worst Test total in 26 years and the batting line-up’s inability to cope with the swinging ball is becoming more disturbing by the innings.
Wisden editor Scyld Berry, writing for The Daily Telegraph, was one of the most piercing of the critics in Thursday’s papers.
“Australia had a dog of a day against Pakistan simply because they are no longer very good and are even, at times, plain ordinary,” he wrote.
“When the ball swings is one of those times.
“In common with international batsmen the world over, most of today’s Australians resemble battery-reared chickens, unable to feed themselves if sent out into the real world.
“Swing is their Achilles heel – yet even Achilles and a bunch of fellow Greeks, after a couple of net sessions, would have cobbled together more than 88.”
But he wasn’t finished.
“To England’s cricketers if they would watch their screens while clutching their sides and wiping away tears, Australia’s batsmen sent the message they are even more inept now against swing than they were when Stuart Broad ran through them at The Oval last August to seal the Ashes.”