All out 62. It wasn’t quite Trent Bridge 2015, but it wasn’t far off either.
Australia’s lowest ever total in limited-overs cricket saw it crash to a 4-1 T20 series defeat to Bangladesh in Dhaka overnight.
This was the same Bangladesh, let’s not forget, that Australia was “embarrassed” to lose to in 2017. The same nation it has cancelled tours on and generally treated as second-class citizens in cricket’s hierarchy.
But there’s only one side embarrassed this morning.
The loss — Australia’s fifth-straight T20 series defeat — puts huge question marks around Justin Langer’s increasingly tenuous role as coach in the format.
Monday night’s result was the team’s 15th T20 defeat in 21 games. The Australian coach now has to confront an ugly truth: that his side are a middling outfit whose hopes of T20 World Cup success increasingly rely on standout individual performances. Even then, progressing beyond the ground stages would appear a 50-50 prospect.
Langer’s default position in the last 12 months is to provide mitigating circumstances following defeats. When his side were comprehensively beaten by the West Indies last month it was because they were missing star players. Oh, and it was the off-season.
“Our guys hadn’t played any cricket for three months … the West Indies had come off a series against South Africa, they were a bit more battle-hardened.”
He made the point of referencing India’s population when Australia’s lost its most recent home Test series. Langer even blamed Australia’s slow over rate in the Boxing Day Test, a move that cost them a spot in the inaugural World Test Championship final, on the absence of the team manager.
But now the excuses have run dry.
In the last month India and England have showcased their deep reserves of talent, with second and even third-string sides claiming limited-overs wins. Australia, by contrast, were dominated by the West Indies and Bangladesh with only a handful of players absent.
Sure, missing Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Pat Cummins and Marcus Stoinis was significant. But do Australia’s fortunes truly rest on the shoulders of so few?
For the upcoming T20 World Cup it would seem they do.
Despite a large body of work reflecting his side’s mediocrity, Langer remains in complete denial about their place in the global pecking order. His recent claim that Australia remained level with the world’s two best white-ball sides was at best ill-judged and at worst deluded.
“There’s no way I’d say we’re behind India and England in terms of talent,” he declared a fortnight ago. “Every single time we have a selection meeting – it’s so hard in Australian cricket because there are so many guys you could pick. That’s really positive.”
His head is almost entering the sand.
There is now a reliance, an unfair expectation, that Maxwell, Warner and Stoinis will blast Australia out of its malaise in the World Cup. The reliance on few is an entirely unsustainable model at T20 level.
Some point to Langer’s three BBL titles as proof of his worth as a T20 coach, but those credits are fast running out. While it’s not entirely his fault that Australia’s T20 team has not kept pace with other nations, he could and should have been the key driver of change, like Trevor Bayliss was in England.
If it wasn’t already clear that the Australian coach should not oversee all three teams, it is patently obvious now.
And there are a number of capable candidates from these very shores who could and should replace Langer in the game’s shortest format.
Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich must surely be names one and two on a Cricket Australia wish list. But that won’t happen now, just over two months from the World Cup.
More pressing is the make-up of Australia’s squad for that tournament.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the series against the West Indies and Bangladesh, despite playing a whopping ten games, is that Australia is no closer to confirming its 15 names for that tournament, and a host of questions remain.
Mitch Marsh was the side’s shining light, but will he remain at No. 3 when the others return? It’s unlikely.
Does Australia have anything resembling a capable finisher at Nos. 6 or 7 yet? Nope.
Who will keep wicket? It really is anyone’s guess.
Perhaps the biggest moment of clarity came late in the process. That is, that Nathan Ellis could be a genuine bolter for the squad and a real horses-for-courses selection in the UAE. Ellis returned 2-16 off his four overs on Monday night on an admittedly helpful surface. But it was a pitch not too far removed of what we might see in the Gulf.
Along with Kane Richardson he is the best slower ball exponent in Australia right now and could be Australia’s surprise packet of the tournament.