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Cook suffers 'lowest moment'
Alastair Cook has endured his 'lowest moment', and must now ensure England sink no further after limply losing the Ashes at the WACA.
The spectre of England's 2006/07 whitewash tour will loom over Christmas as Cook and coach Andy Flower ponder how to stop the rot down under.
Cook, powerless to do so in his 100th Test, was a mere foot soldier opening batsman for that dysfunctional campaign under the short-lived captaincy of Andrew Flintoff.
England were able to delay the inevitable on the final day of the third Test this time, thanks to a memorable maiden international century from Ben Stokes (120), but were eventually bowled out for 353 in early afternoon to concede an unassailable 3-0 lead to Australia.
The hosts are therefore in possession of the urn for the first time since that 5-0 drubbing seven winters ago, having again thoroughly outplayed England to win so far by 381, 218 and now just the small matter of 150 runs.
For Cook, the whole miserable experience is a shock to the system - after England beat Australia 3-0 at home only four months ago.
"It hurts like hell when you come into a contest and end up being second best," he said.
"As a sportsman, to admit that is quite hard."
Cook will have to contend with various calls for his demotion, Flower's resignation and/or the dropping of a clutch of senior players some believe are nearing the end of their sell-by date before England try to limit the damage in Melbourne's Boxing Day Test.
In the first instance, though, he merely had to account for the reasons behind England's defeats.
"We haven't done ourselves justice in those three games. People haven't performed as well as they could have done," he said.
"The simple fact of the matter is we haven't had enough players in form with either bat or ball.
"You can't put it any more honestly than that."
The consequence of seven home hundreds already, to Stokes' ton for England, and 23 wickets in three matches for Mitchell Johnson is - as Cook monosyllabically agreed at his post-match press conference - his lowest point in international cricket.
"The dressing room is hurting ... it's a tough place to be," he added.
"We've had plenty of success, and this is the other end of it. It's not pleasant."
Stokes' innings was a breath of fresh air, incongruous to all that surrounded him as Johnson (four for 78) yet again administered the hammer blows.
Cook is equivocal about the suggestion his team, largely of thirty-somethings, might be on the wane.
"The last three results suggest that," he said.
"You deal in facts, and we lost three games.
"(But) you only have to look at the Australian side - there are a few guys the back end of 30 who are delivering success for them."
He is insistent that the primary responsibility is his - as captain, and an opening batsman who has made 155 runs in six innings.
"I'll never feel let down by my lads," he said.
"Whether I could have done more, of course, that's the first place you look when you lose.
"As a captain, the buck stops with you.
"Am I managing the players right? Am I doing the right things out in the middle?
"We have to have some honest chats, like we always do."
Several of those will be with Flower, who - according to some - needs to give himself a stern talking-to as well.
Cook, meanwhile, retains great faith in his former Essex team-mate.
"Yeah, I do want him to carry on.
"He's an outstanding coach - let's make no mistake about.
"He's an outstanding person, and a great person to have around - especially for me as a captain, the advice he gives me.
"It's not down to him that we've lost - it's that we haven't had enough players in form."
Cook remains convinced too that his England team can avoid another dreaded whitewash.
"Of course, if other people who make the decisions don't think that way, we have to go by that decision.
"When you lose the Ashes in the way we've lost, there will always be people questioning my place and all that kind of stuff.
"Australia have been very ruthless with us.
"When they had a sniff, they took their chance - and when they had us down, they kept us there."