Ten England players returned to the MCG nets on what should have been day four of the Boxing Day Test, as work began on averting an Ashes whitewash that takes captain Joe Root and head coach Chris Silverwood down with it.
A resounding defeat on the third morning in Melbourne saw English hopes of reclaiming the urn disappear in just 12 days of cricket and left Australia to fill their unexpectedly free afternoon to hold an impromptu party on the outfield.
England retreated to the dressing room to commiserate and await the latest round of Covid-19 testing – the squad have now returned two negative PCR rounds since six of the wider travelling party contracted the virus, and are awaiting results of a third – but booked an optional net session for Wednesday morning.
Most of the players who took part in the 68 all out debacle chose not to revisit the scene of the crime but the top three of Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed and Dawid Malan – who scored a combined 38 runs in the match – did come for a bat.
They were joined by the seven squad members who did not feature in the match, in a workout led by Silverwood and assistant Graham Thorpe.
The mood was hardly buoyant, but with two Tests still to play and widespread predictions of a whitewash, this is a group that does not have the luxury of wallowing in defeat.
Root and Silverwood have already kicked the inevitable questions about their positions into the long post-series grass but there is a feeling that the skipper, at least, could have a say in his own future. Should the tour continue its nose-dive trajectory, broader change is not off the cards.
Root will overtake predecessor Sir Alastair Cook’s record of 59 Tests at the helm when he leads the side out in Sydney on January 5 and, while it remains to be seen if he has the resolve to go on his team-mates remain supportive.
All-rounder Chris Woakes, one of those practising in front of a smattering of locals, suggested the team’s inability to match their skipper’s fine personal performances with the bat were a far bigger issue than Root’s leadership.
Dom Bess and Dan Lawrence netting today at the MCG on what should have been day four of the Boxing Day Test.
Can either of these guys elbow their way in at Sydney? pic.twitter.comYqStaA1YKu
Asked if the players backed Root, he said: “Absolutely. Joe is a great cricketer, he’s got… Nokia News – Short Summary.