When Australia lost the 2005 Ashes, the scapegoating and finger pointing was immediate, fierce and frantic. Billy Bowden. Ricky Ponting. Breath mints. WAGS. God. John Buchanan.
Gary Pratt. The loss was such a shock, there was plenty of blame to go around too. However, and despite the fact that the pain of this Ashes loss is still fresh, I think it's possible to offer a dispassionate and logical analysis on where blame lies in our 2009 Ashes loss.
I don't think Ricky Ponting's captaincy was a contributing factor. Sure, he's defensive and unimaginative. But his conservative captaincy was matched and cancelled out by Andrew Strauss' equally conservative captaincy. If anything, the one captaincy howler of the series was Strauss' decision to bat in the 4th Test. It invoked memories of Ponting's decision to bowl at Edgbaston in 2005.
A more likely culprit is the Australian batsmen. It was their first innings collapses at Lords and the Oval which lost us two Tests. The batsman that sticks out like a sore thumb is Mike Hussey. He was Ravi-Bopara-like in the energy and enthusiasm he gave to the fielding team.
He was always a wicket just waiting to happen. Sure, he may have saved his position with a futile century yesterday. It's becoming an Australian tradition for one beleagured batsman to save his career with a meaningless century at the Oval every 4 years.
But Mike Hussey is just a symptom. The underlying problem was the selectors had no options, noone to replace him. How could you possibly select a touring Ashes squad with not a single back-up specialist batsman? It seemed unwise at the time. Foresight has only intensified the craziness of the decision.
However, the true cause of Australia's demise goes further back than our batting collapses at Lords and the Oval. The seeds of our Ashes loss were sowed in the 1st Test.
We had every opportunity to finish off England on the 5th day. All it needed was one delivery, one jaffa to finish off the English tailenders. Instead, we witnessed with dismay the unravelling of Mitchell Johnson. It took 3 Tests for him to get his groove back.
What happened to our devastating spearhead? How did he devolve from the world beating champion in South Africa to the pie chucking farce in Cardiff? Mentally, he wasn't all there. Something was happening off-field that had him distracted on the field. And thus we have our answer.