Darren Lehmann has stepped down as Australia coach.
Darren Lehmann has stepped down as Australia coach.

How horror tour left Lehmann’s bucket list in tatters

BEFORE #tampergate and this disastrous tour of South Africa altogether, Australia and coach Darren Lehmann had a plan to retake the mantle of the world's No.1 Test team.

It was one of the big tasks remaining on Lehmann's bucket list - along with defending the 50-over World Cup title and winning the Ashes in England next year.

In an emotional letter to players past and present last year, Lehmann outlined just how important getting back to No.1 in the world was for this team.

"We have been hunted for a while and now it is time for us to become the hunters and get back to where we belong," Lehmann wrote last August.

"It was only 12 months ago we were number one in Tests and one-dayers and for us to get back there it will only happen with all of us going in the one direction and supporting Australian cricket.

"Whilst results haven't been as we would have liked in the past 12 months, as head coach I can promise you their work ethic is second to none at trying to get better as people first and foremost and at the game of cricket that we all love so much."

It began with a dominant Ashes victory over England: a 4-0 demolition that lifted Australia back to third spot on the Test rankings, having leapfrogged England.

A month ago, it was an achievable goal despite world No.1 India holding a healthy lead atop the rankings.

The two nations above Australia - South Africa and India - were both in their path in 2018, giving Lehmann's men a golden chance to make inroads and reclaim the position atop world cricket they felt was rightfully theirs.

A series victory in South Africa was essential, of course, and that would set them up well for the arrival of Sri Lanka and India on home soil in the summer.

Virat Kohli’s India are No.1 on the Test rankings.
Virat Kohli’s India are No.1 on the Test rankings.

Things started perfectly, with a dominant victory in Durban putting Australia on the right path.

And then the wheels fell off.

Making matters worse, the news across the Tasman that New Zealand held on for a draw in their second Test with England - giving them with a 1-0 series win - meant Australia would slip to fourth in the rankings.

That is the result of three straight losses for Australia.

Since touching down in Port Elizabeth, everything has gone wrong for Australia - on and off the field.

From Kagiso Rabada's devastating spells to AB de Villiers' mesmerising batting, the ICC overturning Rabada's two-Test ban and of course the absolute chaos of the ball-tampering fiasco in Cape Town, Australia's tour went off the rails.

And now not only is the world No.1 tag out of their reach. Australia must be desperately careful not to fall away from the pack leaders during the 12-month stint while deposed leadership duo Steve Smith and David Warner are out of the game.

Already there are fears that India's arrival could be met with a disastrous home summer without Australia's two most damaging batsmen.

India has never won a Test series in Australia, but that could be another record to fall for an Australian team in crisis.

"They've lost people who have played a pivotal role in their success as a team," said South African batsman Temba Bavuma when quizzed on the impact of losing Smith and Warner.

"That's probably going to show within the next couple of games as they try to fill the void left by those players.

"They lost their captain and I'd like to think they depend a lot on him, in all aspects of their game."

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