Michael Vaughan described the aftermath of England’s shock 2005 Ashes victory as "surreal".

Fifteen months on, the erstwhile captain was viewing from the relatively safe distance of more than 1,000 miles - contemplating more gingerly steps back into the playing arena in Perth, while his deputy Andrew Flintoff was overseeing a shambolic last day of the second Test in Adelaide.

As such, Vaughan’s take on a six-wicket defeat implausibly wrung from the evident certainty of a stone-cold draw is not yet known.

The suspicion must be, though, if he could scarcely believe the mass hysteria of a previously dormant generation of English cricket followers last September he must be pretty bemused this time too.

Whereas it seemed his England team kept finding ways to win cricket matches, often from positions which were not entirely promising, the Ashes tourists of 2006/07 are ruthlessly identifying variant methods of losing them.

They kept it pretty simple in the first Test at Brisbane - performing way below their potential throughout on the way to defeat by 277 runs against hosts who never needed to be anywhere near their best.

At the Adelaide Oval, England surpassed themselves by raising expectations with four days of perfectly passable cricket during which double-centurion Paul Collingwood and ever resourceful seamer Matthew Hoggard exceeded expectations.

They did so, of course, on a slow-mo surface which was always likely to give the tourists an opportunity to take the sting out the series.

By stumps on the penultimate day, it appeared to be job done. The draw was unbackable at 1/20, and on a flat pitch which never deteriorated significantly even Australia’s record-breaking leg-spinner Shane Warne surely could not prevent England travelling in good heart to reacquaint themselves with Vaughan and prepare with renewed confidence for the third Test.

Instead, they ground to a halt against Warne, threw in a damaging sequence of self-inflicted blows, had one telling slice of bad luck - when Andrew Strauss was given out in error to a ‘bat’-pad catch - and ended up losing their last nine wickets for just 60 runs.

It was an astonishing, ingenious piece of anti-escapology - leaving Australia just enough time to knock off the runs required in a last innings which should never have taken place.

Flintoff and coach Duncan Fletcher responded by praising Australia’s skilful bowling attack and, by implication, glossing over the sudden surge of English incompetence which allowed Ricky Ponting and Co to go 2-0 up in the five-match series.

In public, prospects of a revival will doubtless be talked up over the next week. But without the delivery in private of attendant home truths, a fair wind with regard to a worrying recurrence of Flintoff’s ankle soreness - and a pinch of the belated boldness required to select Monty Panesar either alongside or in place of Giles - it will all just be so much hot air.

Wishful thinking will not transform England from the zeroes of Brisbane and ultimately Adelaide to heroes who can defy more than a century of cricket history to retain the Ashes from two down with three to play.

Honesty, determination, inspiration - and perhaps a sudden and lasting injection of the world class they hinted at against last year’s off-colour Aussies - may help a little.

Even then, though, if this winter somehow ends with England still in possession of the urn Vaughan will be just one of millions struggling to make sense of it all.

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