England captain Joe Root said his captaincy is not a "dictatorship" as he looked to galvanise the team ahead of the Boxing Day Ashes Test.
Root was critical of the lengths his seamers bowled in the Adelaide Test as Australia went 2-0 up. The captain's comment raised many eyebrows, especially since Test veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have taken more than 1,000 wickets between them were part of the attack.
Anderson responded in a newspaper column, conceding the lengths could have been fuller but that it would be wrong to blame the bowlers for the loss.
Former England pacer Steve Harmison suggested that could open up divides in the camp, stating he would have "been waiting for him at the top of the stairs" if a skipper made similar comments in his playing days.
But Root was also critical of the batting - including his own failure to post a century in the first two Tests - as well as the close catching.
Asked how his words had gone down with Anderson and Broad, Root explained: "What I said at the end of the game, it's not about pointing fingers. It's not about singling players out or trying to put blame on one department - collectively we weren't good enough.
"I was asked some direct questions after the game about our bowling and I answered them. If you'd asked me about the batting I'd have said something very similar.
"I like to give our senior bowlers responsibility, they've got over 300 Tests and over 1000 wickets between them. They know what they are doing, they are highly skilled bowlers, wonderfully talented players that time and time again have put in big performances for us.
"So it's about working alongside them, it's not a dictatorship. Every now and again, you don't always agree on everything, and that's fine. Ultimately it's about coming to a point where you get the results you want."
"It has to be [better], simple as that," Root added. "The two performances we've put out have not been good enough, there've been basic mistakes. We've addressed it, spoken about it and I expect us to be a lot better."
While everything has gone sideways for the visitors, Australia have answered every challenge with confidence.
They lost captain Tim Paine to a texting scandal before the series and his replacement, Pat Cummins, to Covid-19 protocols on the eve of the second Test.
Cummins is set to return for the Melbourne Test after serving a period of isolation, while coach Justin Langer expects Mitchell Starc to be fit despite suffering a rib injury in Adelaide, where the left-armer quick took 6-80.
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood looks set to sit out a second match with a side strain but Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser proved more than adequate replacements in Adelaide, where the former took 5-42 in the final innings.
On the batting front, Australia are in fine shape with Marnus Labuschagne having just overtaken Root at the top of the world rankings.
After being thrashed by nine wickets in the Brisbane opener, England lost by 275 runs in Adelaide to trail 2-0 in the five-match series, with the third match set to start on Sunday.