England managed to rescue defeat from the jaws of victory when losing the Fourth Test match in Melbourne to offer the distinct possibility of a 5-0 whitewash for Australia in the current Ashes series. After a second day in which the Aussies had been reduced to 164-9 at close of play, even the most ardent of home supporters must have thought that the tourists would finally claim a victory, yet England defied the odds to lose once again.
After England had mustered another modest total of 255 in their first innings, with Kevin Pietersen being the only batsman anywhere close to recording a century, they proceeded to dismantle the Australian batting for the first time in this series. When day three began, one quick wicket plus an authoritative second innings display would almost certainly lay the foundations for a solid English victory.
Neither happened, much to the dismay of the visiting supporters.
A last wicket partnership of 40 important runs followed by an abject second innings performance, culminating in a total of 179, was typical of so many days in this one-sided test series. Only two English players recorded scores of more than 30 and the final five wickets disappeared for a paltry six runs.
To make matters worse for the humiliated tourists, Australia replied with a total of 233-2 including a century from Chris Rogers and an undefeated 85 for Shane Watson. England offered little fight in response with Stuart Broad conceding 58 runs in his 10 over spell and Tim Bresnan registering even worse figures with 48 runs being recorded from his 7 overs.
For England, it has been a nightmare series both on and off the pitch with the withdrawals of Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann most definitely affecting morale in the camp. With only one century compiled to date accompanied by a generally mediocre bowling performance, it is difficult to find any positives for the touring party.
The series resumes with the Fifth Test being staged at Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday 3rd January with the home fans set to be baying for blood in the hope that a 5-0 whitewash can be secured. It will be no more than Australia deserve after dominating this series from the second day of the First Test onwards.
Yet if the England squad wish to earn respect and rescue some pride from this ill-fated tour, they must treat the final test match as the most important game of the entire series with a performance of determined application.
Otherwise, the embarrassment of another whitewash may leave scars which may not heal for several more years.