Ashes apocalypse: England hero fears worse than 5-0
FORMER captain Michael Vaughan says it is near-inevitable that England will be whitewashed in the Ashes but he has greater concerns for Joe Root's men than a 5-0 scoreline.
Vaughan fears just how good this Australian side could develop into by the time it is England's turn to host the Ashes in 2019.
"I don't see anything other than 5-0," he said on Test Match Special of the current series.
With Steve Smith and Australia's pace tyros all in their 20s, Vaughan suggested a whitewash could be just the start of England's problems.
"None of those players retiring for a good few years. This Australian team will stay together and get better and better.
"Australia will arrive in 2019 probably better prepared and better experienced than we've seen an Australian team in England for a while so there's a little bit of concern moving forward."
Conversely, the core of England's side is on the wrong side of 30. Alastair Cook (83 runs at 13.83), 32, and Stuart Broad (five wickets at 61.80), 31, have both struggled this series, triggering questions over their futures in team. James Anderson (12 at 25.83) has fared better but at 35 is facing similar questions.
Vaughan believes all three will be involved in the 2019 Ashes but says England has to prepare for life after them.
"They are going to take some replacing."
Vaughan has not bought into talk that Root has struggled with the captaincy but says the 26-year-old has to have a long hard think about what direction he wants to take this English team in.
"He's got to look around the team, look around the camp and work out which characters and what kind of culture he wants to produce in the England team moving forward, and which of those characters are coming with him.
"He might have to make a tough call or two."
Former Australian captain Kim Hughes meanwhile has called for England to axe the entirety of its backroom staff, bemoaning the touring team's conservative tactics.
The tourists are yet to find a way to shut down Smith this series, and aside from the second innings in Adelaide they have generally reverted to more defensive bowling whenever the Australian captain has been out in the middle.
The 28-year-old, who has sat atop the ICC's Test batting rankings for almost two years, scored a blistering 239 at the WACA as Australia cruised to a series sealing innings-and-41 run win.
"England deserve what they got because of their whole mindset," Hughes said of the hammering on TalkSport. "It was probably some of the worst planning or captaincy for field settings I've ever seen in any field of cricket.
"Whoever did the planning should be sacked. To give you an idea, Smith was 80-odd not out overnight and Australia were still 180 runs behind England, and at the WACA - which is traditionally a very quick wicket and provides a lot of pace - this is their thought process...
"Smith was batting with Shaun Marsh, so you've got to get wickets. England had one slip, a sweeper out at deep point, a mid-off and a cover - oh, for God's sake!
"What that said psychologically was, 'well we can't get him out, so what we're going to do is bore him out.'
"Their set-up just sent the wrong message. You've got Anderson who has taken 500 Test wickets, you've got Broad who has been around for ages, and they've all those coaches there - honestly, it was pathetic!
"If you're playing international sport and just waiting for people to make mistakes - what message does that send?
"It was the worst field settings I've ever seen in Test cricket. All the backroom staff should be sacked, they should just move on."
Mike Atherton was less critical in his column for the Times but pointed out that there was a world of difference between what England promised and what they delivered.
"Before the series, Stuart Broad said that England would try to 'swarm' all over Australia but, in truth, they came with a conservative plan of attack: bat for a long time; wear Australia's bowlers down; take the game deep; bowl dry; save boundaries; contain and frustrate. It didn't work," Atherton wrote.
Like Vaughan, Atherton sees a bright future ahead for Smith and Australia.
"Anderson's presence in the middle (when the final wicket fell) as, shortly afterwards, Cummins, Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc embraced and congratulated each other on a job well done, was revealing.
"To note the layout of the relative attacks is simply to recognise that, four years after humbling England with one of the finest collective fast bowling displays of recent memory, Australia have completely revamped theirs with no diminution of pace, aggression or effectiveness."