The conclusion of the Ashes with a two-all result should leave the Australian team, administrators and supporters with a sour taste not dissimilar to that following the 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015 series.
While the urn was retained (in a tied series, for the first time in 47 years!) the overall performance was poor.
Frankly, the starting and stopping point for criticisms lie with the chairman of selectors, the coach and captain.
Changes throughout the series normally reflect a lack of coherence in selection policy. Overall, it is remarkable that of the four centurions in the Test preceding the Ashes, none played in the finale (Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns, Travis Head and Kurtis Patterson vs Sri Lanka in Canberra in February).
Peter Siddle averaged 40-plus with the ball, which is not inconsistent with recent performances.
Mitch Marsh proved that, as a batsman, he is easily contained and eventually will succumb. He has technical deficiencies including an inability to place the ball effectively to keep the scoreboard ticking over and lazy aerial shot-making.
Categorising players is unflattering:
Only Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Pat Cummings and Josh Hazlewood exceeded expectations.
Mitch Starc, Matthew Wade, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh and Siddle met expectations – although Lyon and Wade were flattered by isolated performances.
Those who failed to meet expectations were David Warner, Khawaja, Head, Time Paine, Marcus Harris and Cam Bancroft.
What’s more, Marsh’s bowling figures cannot overcome the fact that his batting record is still the worst top-six batsman selected for Australia with that number of Tests since silent movies, and isolated performances by players not in their preferred mode normally lead to defeats.
The problem with batting has been around for four or five years and we do not seem to have any solutions. The fact we have batsmen who cannot defend their stumps (note the high level of LBW and bowls in the series) is remarkable.
So what are the future plans?
We will err if we repeat the post-2015 approach, which was to select players who have not performed previously so they could gorge themselves on average opposition, particularly at home.
Adam Voges built up a fat average smacking the West Indies and New Zealanders around but had failed in England and against South Africa. Even Burns’ runs have come mostly against weak opposition.
The time is now to introduce and persevere with the talented batsmen the Shield is producing.
That means Head comes back (he may well be the future captain). Patterson is a no-brainer, as is Will Pucovski.
Khawaja should return to the top of the order, while Jhye Richardson must be part of the fast bowling group.
We desperately need another spinner – Ashton Agar should come east to play somewhere more sympathetic to tweakers and find out if he has a legitimate future.
There can be no gloating from an Ashes performance so heavily reliant on three or four players.
Absent a frank statement from the selection panel and Justin Langer on the need to improve in batting, the cricket community is entitled to feel short-changed.