Former captain Mike Gatting has accused England of lacking discipline and branded their bowling "horrible" and fielding "poor" in Australia.
England slipped to a humiliating innings-and-99-run defeat in the fourth Test at Melbourne yesterday to fall 4-0 behind in the five-match series.
The tourists face the prospect of a 5-0 whitewash for the first time since 1920-21.
Gatting, the last captain to lead a winning England side Down Under, said: "It started off reasonably - but it's getting worse.
"We haven't kept our discipline, and against a side like Australia you have got to keep your discipline.
"We saw yesterday [Wednesday] some horrible bowling, and the fielding has been poor. Then we saw the other side of the coin, with people like Stuart Clark and Glenn McGrath pitching the ball up and putting it in the right places.
"All we seemed to do was try to bounce out number 10 and 11. It was ridiculous."
In a reference to the England bowling plans which went missing and were handed to the Australian media, Gatting added: "Whatever the next sheet of paper they put up is, I hope it says 'let's get the basics right first'.
"They have really got to try to pick themselves up if they are to get anything out of Sydney. If there is any incentive it is not to lose 5-0."
Another ex-England captain, Brian Close, agrees that the bowling has not been good enough - adding he believes standards have slipped.
Close said: "It looks as if we have gone backwards, and our bowling standards are not good enough.
"We have hardly got a spin bowler of real top class in the game at the moment, and the pace bowlers are not very accurate."
Close also believes it is time for Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, to leave the post.
"I think he is past his sell-by date. In our day we didn't need coaches; if you played for England you were supposed to be a good player and didn't need coaches.
"They have got a batting coach and a bowling coach - so what is he, a fielding coach?"