London: These are tough times for Australian cricket. Beaten in a home Test series by South Africa, thrashed 4-0 away in India, and now eliminated from the Champions Trophy without as much as a consolation win. A trophy cabinet once so full that even dust struggled to find space has emptied out, and it's been George Bailey's fate - with Michael Clarke injured - to preside over the surrender of the last major title in Australia's possession.
The optimists might point you to the summer of 1989. Australia arrived for the Ashes having won just one Test in the previous 12 months, a dead rubber against West Indies in Sydney. Their ODI record in the same period was a middling 6-6. England, who had won the last two Ashes series, were scalding-hot favourites. Australia won 4-0.
Bailey, who isn't part of the Ashes squad, was asked if he was confident that his teammates could turn things around, and what that confidence was based on. "There is probably not a great deal of confidence there," he said with the candour that has been one of the highlights of his leadership. "But it's just a very different mindset, I think, going from a one-day tournament to Tests. The Ashes just tends to bring out something special in both sides. Whatever's written and said leading up to those games, the result of that first Test [at Trent Bridge, starting on July 10] will dictate how the summer plays out."
Having lost so heavily to England and then seen their game against New Zealand affected by the weather, Australia were asked to perform a tightrope walk at The Oval. Having bowled reasonably well to restrict Sri Lanka to 253 for 8, they needed to knock off the runs in 29.1 overs to qualify for the last four. The aggressive approach from the batsmen meant plenty of wicket-taking opportunities for Sri Lanka and once half the side were dismissed with just 80 on the board, it was apparent that even the back door had been slammed shut.
Bailey spoke with a smile of the competition between Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty for the No.10 spot - the two added 41 for the last wicket to get Australia within 20 - but admitted that it had been hard to push on once the last-four dream was extinguished. "Once the 29 overs had ticked over, our steam went out a little bit," he said. "We were resigned to the fact that the tournament was over for us."
Asked to figure out where it had all gone wrong, Bailey harked back to the opening game against England, when Australia's batting folded badly in the face of the kind of skilful bowling that they will no doubt face much more of this summer. "The way the net run-rate works, losing to England by 45 runs hurt us," said Bailey. "That's really all we did wrong, and it dictated how we had to play today. Losing that first game was basically the major cock-up.
"I'd say there was a little bit of bad luck. We were really confident of the score we had against New Zealand on that worn wicket [at Edgbaston]. We thought it would be enough. We thought we'd started really well, but I guess that's part of the game. There is not much you can do about that."
He spoke of the time that the squad have spent in England - Australia A are also over for a tour - as one of the things likely to hold them in good stead, and also pinpointed James Faulkner's progress as an allrounder. Given how much they've missed his batting though, Michael Clarke can't return soon enough.
"I was only really captain again this morning when Pup was ruled out," said Bailey. "It's good having him back. There was a real chance that he was going to play. Circumstances almost dictated that he didn't. The up-in-the-air nature of how today was going to pan out probably played against him, as has the weather for the last couple of days, when trying to get some really good training under his belt."
Bailey reckoned Clarke would be fit for the warm-up match against Somerset next week, but accepted that those batting around him would have to lift their standards appreciably. "Every batsman would like to be scoring runs, there is no doubt about that," he said when asked about the form shown by the likes of Shane Watson and Phil Hughes. "All these guys will have to put this tournament behind them, whether they've scored runs or not, and just focus on going forward. Everyone has form slumps, everyone has their ups and downs. As a team, I think there is a really big challenge ahead of them in the next couple of months.
"What Australia have done this time is they've got really good preparation. A couple of guys, from this group may even join up and play the Australia A game that's due to start later this week. So there are going to be plenty of opportunities for those guys to get some match practice in, plenty of opportunity to get lots of practice against the Dukes ball.
On the evidence of this tournament, they'll need it.