A sinking feeling from a familiar tale.

After six weeks of dwindling optimism, Steve Smith fuelled frustration, and for many of us, sleep deprivation – the 2017/18 Ashes series culminated on Monday morning in a comprehensive 4-0 win for Australia.

And if ever a day was synonymous with a series, it was the final one in Sydney, where England originally battled hard for a session to offer us forlorn hope – before being blown away thereafter by an aggressive and hostile home attack.

The sight of James Anderson wondering around confused after being given out at the SCG, seemingly not knowing if all was over or if Joe Root was coming back out, said it all. A strange and muddled series was at an end for Trevor Bayliss and his troops - even if they didn’t know it.

Those digging up positives amidst the rubble have emphasized this has been a far cry from the whitewash suffered in 2013/14. Each match was at least taken to a final day, and sure enough, unlike the tourists that capitulated so weakly four years ago – the current crop cannot be accused of a lack of effort and character.

But talk all you want about Dawid Malan’s resolve, Anderson’s endurance, or Alistair Cook’s double century in Melbourne – the brutal truth is England were once again mauled away from home at the hands of their oldest rivals.

Here’s five factors that contributed to such a one sided series, after England made the same old mistakes in Australia…………

Fail to prepare, prepare to be battered in Brisbane

As far as test matches were concerned, England signed off their preparation for Australia last summer with a 2-1 series win at home to an understrength, and deeply erratic, West Indies.

To say they landed in Perth in late October with question marks hanging over the plausibility over several key performers, would probably have been an absurd understatement.

And yet ahead of the critical first test in Brisbane the squad played two warm up matches – a two day game against a Western Australia XI, and a four day contest with a Cricket Australia XI.

You can never replicate the intensity of international cricket in a friendly, but a hasty warm-up schedule like that will never allow players to find form, and coaches are unlikely to learn enough to solve any selection quandaries.

Of course, between juggling three formats and global money spinning opportunities, time is of the essence in the modern game – but unless a touring schedule is devised in future Ashes trips to allow a competitive build up before that first test in Brisbane, the likelihood of England getting the flying start they crave is distant.

Since drawing there in 1982, only twice have England avoided defeat at Gabba. Only twice in that period have they returned from Australia as winners.

You do the maths.

Off field antics fuel the slander

The ethical ideals practiced by the Australian media can often be questionable– but their loyalty to their own cannot.

They have no qualms about getting stuck in to opponents of their national sides in any sport, or to be more specific, delving into slander to unsettle the ‘Poms’.

And from the moment Ben Stokes threw a few haymakers in a Bristol nightclub in late September, England essentially threw fish to the sharks.

It was the start of a questionable series of off-field incidents, exacerbated by the Jonny Bairstow ‘head-butt’ once England arrived, and ignited further by Ben Duckett’s apparent antics.

We may live an age where professional sportsmen and women are often unfairly judged in the public eye, but when you are supposed to be fighting tooth and nail for thousands of fans who have spent fortunes to support you, clowning about in bars does not reflect well. And it all led to some unwelcome distractions from the task in hand.

Add to that the players publicly bemoaning the Australian sledging, and Joe Root’s tantrum after Steve Smith was seen laughing, fairly innocuously may I add, in a press conference following the first test.

Whether you agree with the notorious Australian approach or not, the brutal fact is you need a hardened mentality to deal with what their public throws at you. Root’s outburst in particular signified a captain, and a team, unfocused and rattled early on in the series – and coupled with the off field controversies, the tourists became easy meat for crowds and journalists alike.

A lesson in ruthlessness

On day two in Perth, England stood at 368-4 in their first innings as they sought to keep the series alive, with both Malan and Jonny Bairstow batting beautifully having reached three figures.

But just as a huge total seemed on cards, six wickets fell for 35 runs in a frantic period of frenzied shot selection – and a Steve Smith double century later, the Ashes were effectively over.

That mini collapse was not the only time Joe Root’s men failed to press home an advantage, but it was a typical reflection of the gulf between the sides when an opportunity arose.

In fact only in Adelaide, when the hosts were shot out for 138 in their second innings, did England ever truly push their foot down on the throat when in the ascendancy – and even then the first innings deficit was such the fightback came too late to save matters.

The batting statistics are telling – England’s batsmen notched 13 half centuries to Australia’s 11, but other than the aforementioned Bairstow and Malan, only Cook converted with his marathon knock of 244 not out in Melbourne, albeit once the series was lost.

Smith and co meanwhile, boasted centurions on nine occasions, and at least once in each test.

The bowling figures don’t make pretty reading either – and only at the MCG did the Baggy Greens face a deficit at the half way mark, and even then they comfortably held out for a draw.

Performing well in isolated spells or sessions is not going to win you a five match series.

Anderson tireless in a toiling attack

Australia’s bowling attack boasted genuine pace and a world class spinner. England had neither.

It’s a brief summary, but one that adequately explains why the top four wicket takers in the series belonged to the runaway winners.

At times, no less so than under the lights of Adelaide, the skill of James Anderson was a sight to behold, and he deserved more reward than his prolonged spells in searing heat often produced. Craig Overton showed an ability to make things happen before injury curtailed his tour, and Mason Crane was considerably better in Sydney than his figures of 1-193 suggested.

But these positives mask a grim reality that collectively, Root’s bowlers carried little threat, and only once were Australia dismissed for under 300.

Contrast that with the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood. The difference in pace, hostility, and aggression was insurmountable.

Lyon meanwhile, extracted genuine turn and control - whilst England paid a heavy price for sticking with the notion that Moeen Ali is their front line spinner.

At his best, Ali is an explosive batsman also capable of wicket hauls – but his all-rounder tag has almost been forced upon him because of a lack of slow bowling alternatives.

And the fact Bayliss and co chose to flog such a clearly struggling player for five consecutive tests, with Crane waiting in the wings, was a selection policy plagued by a lack of courage and misguided loyalty.

Graham Swann’s dubious TV performance with BT Sport was ridiculed by many. But what England supporters wouldn’t have done to have had the 2010/11 Ashes version of him touring with the side over Christmas.

It’s only words

Within minutes of the last rites in Sydney, Trevor Bayliss was boldly stating the plot for revenge in 2019 on English soil was already underway.

After all, we’ll see how fluent the Marsh brothers and Usman Khawaja are when the Dukes cherry ball is swinging about under thick cloud cover at Edgbaston, won’t we?

But let’s all assume England will regain the Ashes and along with a few OBE’s and best-selling books, then publicly state a burning desire to retain them in the return series in 2021/22.

Will the planning begin there and then? Of course not. We’ll have 18 months of players jetting here, there, and everywhere to play lucrative T20 cricket, the domestic game will continue to mould individuals suited only for English conditions, and then undoubtedly arrive down under with a squad that’s under prepared and unsuited to Australian pitches and conditions.

You can only work with the players you have, and selectors can’t always legislate for the lack of depth in county cricket, injuries, or their best all-rounder throwing a right hand or two and falling foul of the law.

But unless the naivity and false positivity is dumped to one side, and true thought and preparation time is afforded in future in the build-up to away Ashes tours, then the now familiar pattern of England competing at home and being thumped away will continue.