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Australia v New Zealand ODI: Losses are accepted – but the nature of some losses is simply unacceptable

The Australian cricket team always has something to prove. That comes with the territory of being a sporting team that carries the hopes of the nation on its back.

It also comes with the territory of being highly paid: they have to be accountable to fans and paymasters alike.

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Both bosses expect more wins than losses. The Australian players expect much the same, which is why long losing streaks are both unusual and unacceptable.

The recent steak came across two forms of the game and against two quality opponents, so the statistics need swallowing with a spoonful of sugar. On the downside, four of those came on home soil.

Room for improvement: The Australians are in the midst of a rough patch.
Room for improvement: The Australians are in the midst of a rough patch. Photo: Getty Images

Losing at Eden Park is a given for the Wallabies. Now you can add the Australian cricket team to that painful list.

The All Blacks are an immensely successful team for a number of reasons. Being the major sport in a small nation certainly helps, and being the living soul of the populace drives men hard toward a winning culture.

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Winning is expected not because it brings financial rewards but because it brings pride.

Pressure on the All Blacks comes from the same people from which the pride is derived, their undiluted expectations of a national symbol.

They never lose five in a row, no matter who pulls on the guernsey, no matter who the selectors anoint. If Usman Khawaja was picked at five-eighth, he'd get the job done.

While Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold bemoans how the nation's youth lack a winning culture thanks to the non-competitive emphasis of the nanny-state education system, Darren Lehmann has had to deal remotely with his team's recent lack of winning.

Were his charges happy just to be out on the field of dreams in the national colours having some fun and participating, or were they truly competing? 

Twenty-over cricket can be a fickle beast, dominated as it is by batsmen who find defence something you hit the ball over. When a game is predicated on 120 deliveries of swash and buckle, then luck is bound to have a disproportionate effect.

Fifty-over cricket is said to be a game of significantly more chance than Test matches. Tests are never won by a lucky team or a lucky player; the best performed always win Test matches, while luck can help in the shorter forms.

I don't think Australia were lucky during the World Cup when they established their No.1 ICC ranking. They had more skill, more motivation and better execution than the rest.

The loss in game five of the India ODI series simply wasn't important. The trophy had been won.

Usman Khawaja wasn't considered good enough so the talent on show must have been outstanding. India were perhaps more interested in avoiding a clean sweep than Australia were in achieving one.

The loss in Auckland on Wednesday set some records that are usually the domain of the second or third rung of ICC qualified countries.

It is one thing to be beaten by a good opponent, specially this talented Kiwi team, but it is worse than embarrassing to be dismissed in less than half the allotted overs, the shortest innings in the 870-game history of Australian one-day cricket.

The New Zealand attack kept challenging the Australians with some fast, short-pitched and hostile bowling. Their intimidation was reminiscent of ruthless Australian attacks with Mitchells Johnson and Starc.

Brendan McCullum had his enforcers rubbing salt into a gaping wound, an opportunity he doesn't often get.

The rearguard effort of Matt Wade and James Faulkner covered some hard yards but they must have thought they only had 20 overs to bat. Did this team really want to win or has their appetite for the contest evaporated?

The All Blacks may not have come back from such a deficit but their nation's pride would have dictated a sterner response to the adversity.

Australian teams under Border, Waugh, Taylor or Benaud would not have accepted this attitude or result.

Lehmann's illness was minor but serious – if you can have such a thing – but it was proper that his health was the major consideration. 

Was it coincidence that the losses occurred in his absence? Maybe modern teams do need coaches to help them maintain their focus.

The significant margin will have emboldened the Black Caps and caused some doubting introspection from Australia. An immediate bounce back is prescribed.

The challenge for Australia in the short term is to get some wins on the board. It doesn't matter how, winning ugly is always the preferred option to losing entertainingly – check with Arnie again on that one.

Lehmann and Khawaja are back and that should help a lot. It's always nice to have your best players on the field and it's also nice that the selectors have come to understand that.

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