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No support for skipper Steve Smith

AAP logoAAP 12/11/2016 Rob Forsaith

Australia's shambolic first innings in Hobart is likely to prove one of the low points of Steve Smith's captaincy career but the right-hander should be shielded from the rage, criticism and calls for change.

Fresh from losing the first Test of a home summer, which had been unprecedented in Smith's lifetime, Australia were skittled for just 85 by South Africa on Saturday.

They lasted 32.5 overs. It was Australia's lowest and shortest Test innings at home since Michael Holding grabbed six wickets at the WACA in 1984.

It was through no fault of the skipper, who was Australia's only specialist batsman to resist the Proteas.

Smith finished 48 not out, scoring 56.5 per cent of Australia's runs. Only once before in the history of Test cricket has a side been rolled for a total of 85 or less and one batsman scored so many runs.

The quality was as remarkable as the quantity. Smith played late, stroked five boundaries, and barely played and missed. He looked bizarrely comfortable - almost immune to the chaos unfolding at the other end.

Australia have delivered two more embarrassing Test collapses in the past five years - and were spun out by Sri Lanka earlier this year - but that all happened overseas.

Cricket only becomes the national sport during a home summer, when failures are watched - and lamented - by both ardent and causal fans.

There is also the expectation, as laid out by Smith prior to both Tests, that Australia will always perform well at home. This is the 13th Test hosted by Bellerive since 1989 and locals have only watched Australia lose once.

It is why Smith will be among many individuals feeling the heat as a four-Test losing streak looks set to become a five-Test losing streak, despite an inspired fightback with the ball from Mitchell Starc.

The last time Australia suffered through this sort of slump under one captain it was Kim Hughes, who offered a tearful resignation in 1984.

Smith is unlikely to go down that path and nor should he.

Instead it is teammates, coach Darren Lehmann, high-performance chief Pat Howard and Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland who must shoulder the blame.

Lehmann because he's coached the side since 2013 and batting collapses have largely been a consistent concern since his appointment.

Sutherland and Howard because of the responsibilities associated with their titles and lack of progress in fixing a cramped schedule (domestic and international) that frustrates and confuses fans, players, coaches and selectors.

Chairman of selectors Rod Marsh, who has already announced he will step down next year, will also be under the microscope.

The dumping of Mitch Marsh, a week after national selector Mark Waugh said the allrounder "definitely has two Tests", was clumsy.

But it is hard to argue it was wrong promoting a specialist batsman for Mitch Marsh, likewise that Glenn Maxwell or anybody else currently available would have made a major difference.

Regrettably for Smith there is little depth at this point - in the XI and around the country.

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