CANBERRA • Two of Australian cricket's most senior figures, head coach Darren Lehmann and high performance manager Pat Howard, yesterday accepted blame and publicly apologised for the loss of the Ashes.
England lead 3-1 in the five-match series with the fifth to be played at The Oval in London from next Thursday.
Lehmann told Cricket Australia's website that his squad's performances had been "poor" and steps were being taken to identify the shortcomings.
"We understand how disappointing the series has been, and I can reassure you we are doing our very best as a group to identify the areas in which we need to improve in order to ensure we get better as a team," he said.
"We have been poor, we have been out-played by a superior opponent, and, as coaching staff, players and selectors, we fully accept the blame for our losses."
We have been outplayed by a superior opponent, and, as coaching staff, players and selectors, we fully accept the blame for our losses
DARREN LEHMANN, acknowledging Australia's overall performance during the series has been 'poor'
Howard put his hand up to accept his share of responsibility, saying his push for an older team and overworking vital pace bowler Ryan Harris into retirement before the series started was his own fault.
"I need to be reviewed and I have absolutely no problem with that," he told The Courier Mail. "Clearly I have got to take leadership over this. We lost and someone is accountable and ultimately I am accountable.
"The first person I want people looking for is me rather than anyone else. We will do an internal review first and see where that gets to."
THE BUCK STOPS HERE
We lost and ... ultimately I am accountable
PAT HOWARD, Australia's high performance manager, welcoming scrutiny of his methods
In Galle, Sri Lanka, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin grabbed six wickets for 46 runs as India bowled out Sri Lanka for 183 but then stumbled briefly in reply in a rousing start to the first Test yesterday.
Twelve wickets fell on the opening day and India were themselves reduced to 28-2 before they recovered to post 128 without further loss by stumps at the Galle International Stadium.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan was unbeaten on 53 and skipper Virat Kohli was on 45 during a third-wicket stand of 100, leaving India just 56 runs away from the lead.
Ashwin said he expected the pitch to play slower as the game progressed, making it tough for both batsmen and bowlers.
"The wicket was really tacky in the morning and the ball was just deviating enough," he said. "But as the game goes on, it is going to get really slow. One will have to work harder to get wickets.
"From that aspect, we need to bat really well and see where we go from here."
Skipper Angelo Mathews top-scored for Sri Lanka with 64 and Dinesh Chandimal led a charmed life to make 59, the pair sharing a 79-run partnership for the sixth wicket after their team had collapsed to 60-5 before lunch.
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