“Sackcloth and Ashes”, read the headline on the
Sydney Morning Herald
’s front page, as the Australian press prepared for only its second bout of post-Ashes soul searching in 20 years. Eulogies to England’s Andrew Flintoff - in particular his “magnificent” run out of Ricky Ponting - were mixed with pained laments at Australia’s “slow Ashes death”, and questions over the tourists’ selection policy and tactics.
“Ricky Ponting’s Ashes career has ended in heartache as he became the first Australian skipper in over a century to lose two series in England,” wrote Ben Dorries in the Daily Telegraph. “The Ashes are gone. So is Australia’s No1 Test ranking and its 14-year hold on world dominance.”
Australia’s failure to select the spinner Nathan Hauritz led much of the post-match analysis of defeat at The Oval, though concerns about the wicket being doctored to aid England were dismissed: “Australia put the lie to any argument over the state of the pitch by posting 348 in their second innings,” said Paul Colgan, The Punch.
The question of Ponting’s future as captain was widely pondered — with more than one columnist writing in his defence — as well as his form and the potential of a return to contest the 2013 series in England.
Peter Roebuck, in the SMH, began by dwelling on the captain’s efforts to save the fifth Test: “Ponting was given a wonderful reception by a patriotic but by no means inhospitable crowd — the series has not been besmirched by the ugly edge of nationalism detected in 2005.