Brisbane:Ricky Ponting's Australians were plumbing the depths of their dark period of the 1980s after they relinquished a winning position to draw the Ashes opener against England, newspapers said on Tuesday.
Australia's press wailed in unison at the abject failure of the national team's inability to capitalise on a 221-run innings lead as England comfortably batted their way to a draw in the first of five Tests at the Gabba on Monday.
The performance conjured memories of Australian cricket's dark times of the mid-1980s when the team had a sequence of just one win in 20 Tests and none at all in 14 matches.
"Has Australian cricket really fallen this far? Is the national team really this bad?" The Australian's Malcolm Conn asked.
"The figures tell us that not since Allan Border desperately tried to hold together a rabble gutted by South African rebel tours in the mid-1980s has Australian cricket performed so poorly.
"Anyone who had the misfortune of watching Australia's sad-sack effort in the field yesterday could only worry that we're plumbing those depths again."
Conn said the impotence of Australia's attack and its listlessness in the field was unacceptable with the prospect of flatter pitches to come in the series.
The Melbourne Age followed the theme, declaring: "Rarely can roosters so quickly have become feather dusters.
"Here was a reprise of the barren and wretched mid-80s, fortunately beyond the memory of half the population and carefully forgotten by the rest."
The Daily Telegraph raised the question of whether Australia's team was actually any good.
"Australian players scoffed when they were told earlier this year they were the fifth-ranked Test side in the world following their 2-0 series defeat to India." it said.
"Maybe it's closer to the truth than they care to believe.
"Their success on the first three days at the Gabba lured us into a false sense of hope. The last two have snapped us back into the cold light of day. "While the benign pitch killed the contest it should not hide the deficiencies in Ricky Ponting's side."
The Brisbane Courier-Mail's Robert Craddock said when Australia were toiling in the field a twitter message whistled around the Gabba press box revealing the RSPCA had been called to the ground.
"The Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Australians had been called in to investigate whether what was happening to Ricky Ponting's side was inhumane," he quipped.
But Sydney Morning Herald cricket commentator Peter Roebuck cautioned against an over-reaction.
"But hang on a second. Despondency need not turn into despair, not yet. The match was drawn," he wrote.
"It might not have looked like it or felt like it but honours were even when stumps were drawn. Heck, Australia led by 221 on first innings.
"It might seem an eternity ago but the hosts dominated the first part of the contest.
"Despite the mayhem the teams go to Adelaide locked at 0-0. England landed blow after blow but there has been no knockout punch. Ricky Ponting and company might be staggering around the ring but they remain intact."