Alastair Cook will continue as England captain – even if he loses the Ashes 5-0 – until someone instructs him otherwise.
Cook appeared shell-shocked as he addressed his post-match press conference after England’s miserable tour had hit a new low at the MCG.
But he still had enough in him to defend his under-performing players’ Test pedigree, the coaching staff’s ongoing aptitude for their jobs and to underline his own readiness to carry on.
A fourth successive defeat came by eight wickets after Chris Rogers (116) and Shane Watson (83no) completed Australia’s fightback from a first-innings deficit to once again trounce the tourists.
And as the inevitable pointed questions kept coming about his team, his leadership and their management, he put up a stout defence, making it clear he is no quitter just a year into his tenure as captain: “I’m 100 per cent wanting to carry on. If someone makes that decision, and says ‘we think there’s a better man’ or ‘you’re not good enough to do it’ then I have to take that on the chin – because as a captain, you’re responsible for the team.”
What, though, of Andy Flower and his back-room specialists – such as batting and bowling coaches Graham Gooch and David Saker? “I’m fully supportive of our coaching staff. We’ve had some fantastic results ... it wasn’t so long ago we won in India with this same coaching staff, against Australia with the same coaching staff.”
Their continued involvement may well depend on the outcome of a date with destiny in the final Test, which starts in Sydney on Friday. Cook knows he can still have a say then, but must leave the consequences in the hands of others.
Melbourne: England 255 (K Pietersen 71, M G Johnson 5-63) & 179 (N Lyon 5-50) v Australia 204 (J Anderson 4-67) & 231-2 (C Rogers 116, S R Watson 83 no). Australia beat England by 8 wkts.