After being subject to utter and complete annihilation, perhaps the only thing left to do is to comb through the pitiable debris of destruction and hunt for a hint of treasure, some reassurance that things are not as bad as they seem.
England have surrendered The Ashes, after just three Test matches. And they have done so without so much of a fight. Apart from the first three days at Brisbane, they have never been in the reckoning. At Adelaide, they could have glimpsed a glimmer of hope when the hosts fell for 138 in the second innings, but even then the target was quite beyond their reach after a 215-run first innings deficit. And here, at Perth, the first day’s score of 305 for 4 promised much before the lower order capitulated and the Steve Smith legend grew more and more imposing at the expense of sinking English hearts.
The visitors have been routed, vanquished, blown away. And the additional problem is that there is not much to be salvaged from the ruins.
It is a sorry tale, whether we look at batting or bowling.
The most experienced name, Alastair Cook, trails even Chris Woakes in the batting averages. He has managed 83 in his 6 innings, and critics are understandably busy snapping at his heels.
Joe Root has managed to cross fifty twice in his six outings, but the big innings has not only eluded him, it has not even seemed to be waiting around the corner. Like the entire side, his failures have also been accompanied by a sense of inevitability. 176 runs at an average of 29.33 is not what you expect of the best batsman of the side, one spoken of in the same breath as Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. Well, when one considers that Smith’s tally for the three Tests is 426 runs at 142.00, reality strikes hard. Really hard.
The other men in the line up have had occasional success. Mark Stoneman has looked good in patches, James Vince has been elegant and delightful on occasions, Johnny Bairstow has got that one hundred. But consistency has not graced the side, not a single one of them.
The bowling cuts an even sorrier picture. Stuart Broad has managed 5 wickets and they have come at 61.80 each. Woakes has toiled for his 7 scalps, at 51.57 each. James Anderson has an impressive average of 25.83 for his 12 wickets, but much of it is lopsided —two successful spells, one aided by lights and pink ball and another by a proliferation of tail-enders, alongside prolonged unimpressive patches.
It is perhaps Moeen Ali who underlines the tale of horror that the tour has been so far. Ben Stokes is absent for reasons both infamous and well-known, but Moeen was supposed to be one of the many men in the side who could still add that factor of all-round strength in the English team. The ability to bat deep and call on varied resources with the ball has been their edge for long.
After 3 Tests, Moeen stands at 116 runs at 19.33 with the bat and 3 wickets at 105.33 with the ball. One does not need to elaborate on figures such as these.
The one exception in this sorrowful saga is perhaps Dawid Malan.
The Middlesex man has demonstrated his mettle in the Perth Test. 140 and 54 against this Aussie bowling attack is more than commendable, and the way he made those runs with excellent drives and the occasional backfoot strokes was a genuine bright spot in a tale of gloom.
Apart from that, Malan did play a crucial hand in the first innings of the Test series, when his well-compiled half-century, alongside the knocks of Vince and Stoneman, allowed England to at least begin the series on a competitive note.
He did get starts in both innings at Adelaide, although he could not go on to make sizable scores. But the way he batted at the WACA was a revelation.
Of course, the manner in which he went after the Josh Hazlewood delivery down the leg side and feathered an edge to the keeper, thus throwing away a three and a half hour resistance that amounted to 54, will irk him for a long time. But with 302 runs at 50.33 after the six innings on the tour, his composure and compactness, and the class of his drives, one can say that Malan has been the one redeeming factor in the nightmarish tour for England so far.
He is no spring chicken. At 30, he is not really the next big hope for England. But in a batting line up that seems extremely frail at the current moment, Malan does seem to have the potential to become a dependable name for at least a few years to come.
The series has died a one-sided death, and with the urn gone only pride remains to play for. One does hope that England will attempt to, and perhaps manage to, set the equation somewhat right in the two remaining Tests. And one does hope that unlike the inconsistent trail of runs and wickets from the team so far, Malan will continue to make this tour the springboard of a successful career.