Australia's performance sparks sharp criticism

Analysts say this is Australia’s worst performance in the Ashes series since 1956.

Australia's Nathan Lyonon bats during the Ashes cricket test match between England and Australia. Picture: AFP

MELBOURNE - Australia's calamitous fourth test defeat to surrender a third successive Ashes series to England plunged the nation's media back into despair only a week after local newspapers dared forecast a turnaround in the team's fortunes.

Monday's harrowing 74-run loss in Durham, ushered by Stuart Broad's brilliant six-wicket haul after tea on day four and another colossal failure by Australia's batsmen, left the tourists trailing 3-0 in the five-test series and playing only for pride in the final match at The Oval next week.

Australia won back a measure of respect at home after dominating England in the drawn third test but good will was in scant supply on Tuesday as the nation digested another batting fiasco over breakfast.

"The collapse that saw Australia tumble from 0-109 to all out 224, losing by 74, was oh so predictable given what has been on display for much of this largely disappointing series," Malcolm Conn wrote in News Ltd newspapers.

"Australia has used eight batsmen in this series and only three of them have managed to average 30, Michael Clarke (49), Chris Rogers (43) and (David) Warner (30), although a couple of the bowlers have managed better than most batsmen.

"It is a poor reflection on Australian cricket that just the captain, a left field selection who will be 36 this month and a miscreant who missed a month through suspension should have the only passable figures."

Clarke's men have now the distinction of completing a losing Ashes streak matched only by the struggling Australia teams of 1953-1956 in the post-War era.

The manner of the capitulation, losing nine wickets in a single session after having pushed to within 152 runs of a rousing victory, left Clarke shattered and cricket writers crying shame.

"No-one does shameful collapses quite like Australia and Michael Clarke's side conjured up one to remember, or rather to forget, at Durham to hand the Ashes series to England," Wayne Smith wrote in The Australian newspaper.

"Not since it was beaten in 1953, 1955 and 1956 has Australia lost three Ashes series in succession but rarely, with so much on the line and with victory so clearly in sight, has a team succumbed so meekly."

While most papers were damning of Australia's hapless batsmen, praise was reserved for the feats of Broad, who was slammed as a villain Down Under for not walking in the first test after umpire Aleem Dar failed to detect a thick edge.

Broad finished with career-best bowling figures of 11-121 at Chester-Le-Street and would be able to walk tall in the return series later this year, according to columnist Malcolm Knox.

"Much will be said about the psychological and technical failings of the Australian batsmen under pressure, but this was a day to admire their conqueror," Knox wrote in Fairfax newspapers.

"Dumb Broad, Lord Broad, Broad the Fraud ... the banners are being painted, and this young man with incongruously narrow shoulders will have to take a lot."

"But he seems the type who enjoys a fight. He will arrive in Australia as a credible and, when needed, formidable force."