TELFORD VICE, Hobart
AUSTRALIA’S newspapers, often considered part of the challenge touring teams face in this country, aimed their guns inward on Wednesday in the wake of South Africa’s test series triumph.
Faf du Plessis’ men clinched the rubber by winning the second test by an innings and 80 runs at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Tuesday. That followed South Africa’s 177-win in the first test at the WACA.
Those victories made South Africa, who also won here in 2008-09 and 2012-13, the only team besides West Indies to claim a hat-trick of test series successes in Australia.
All things being equal, that would lead to a deluge of praise in the press.
But, with South Africa taking all 10 wickets for 86 runs in the first innings in Perth, and, in Hobart, dismissing Australia for 85 first up and then claiming eight scalps for 32 in the second dig, nothing about this series has been equal.
And that includes the papers, whose pages have been filled with thousands of words dedicated to Australia’s problems and how to fix them.
South Africa? A couple of hundred words, often near the bottom of an inside page.
The noise, loud enough after Perth, reached a crescendo on Wednesday.
The country’s only national broadsheet daily, The Australian, is a proper newspaper featuring unimpeachable reporting and reasoned comment.
So the headline on the back page lead on Wednesday might have shocked readers: “DISGRACE TO THE BAGGY GREEN”.
“Australia captain Steve Smith is, like the Australian public, sick of it,” wrote seasoned journalist Peter Lalor.
“He’s embarrassed, angry and disappointed. He has questioned the commitment of his team and says there needs to be changes.
“Smith is sick of leading a side that talks a good game only to fall on its face every time it is called on to walk a good game.
“If it were Allan Border there would have been blood on the walls, but Smith is a gentler breed of man.”
Lalor also made it onto the front page with a piece that referenced South Africa’s 5-0 whitewash over the Aussies in a one-day series last month that was titled, “8-32, 0-5 adds up to an incalculable crisis”.
“Australian cricket is in crisis like never before,” Lalor wrote. “The captain has no answers. The coach has no answers. The men in suits are boarding planes.
“Heads have to roll, but no matter how many sacrifices are made, it will not satisfy the blood lust of the public, of whose game they are the guardians.”
The piece concluded with, “Ahead of this test the coach, the captain and the psychologist said this team was in a good place. That’s a relief. You would hate to see them in a bad one.”
The front page of The Age, Melbourne’s respected daily, was dominated by a photograph of Smith walking off head bowed after being dismissed on Tuesday, under the headline, “The low point”.
“Not good enough,” was the headline on the back page over a photograph of Kyle Abbott celebrating one of the six wickets he took in Australia’s second innings.
Inside, august columnist Greg Baum wrote, “It the meekness that was so shocking. For so long, the Australian cricket team’s hallmark has been its swagger and braggadocio.”
His piece was headlined, “The new normal: flogged with barely a whimper.”
The tabloid Herald Sun bannered its back page with, “1948 – BRADMAN HAD THE INVINCIBLES. 2016 – SMITH HAS THE INSIPIDS”.
Columnist Richard Hinds wrote, “The best that can be said about the deplorable state of Australian test cricket is that there is no shortage of options, although most of them require a woodcutting implement.
“Axe the players, axe the coach, axe the sports scientists, axe the selectors, axe the captain … axe everyone.”