The Ashes already lost in rapid time. The beleaguered head coach conspicuous by his Covid-enforced absence. Senior players giving throw-downs at net sessions because there was nobody else about to help out.
The captain being readied for the metaphorical guillotine by all and sundry. And even the managing director of the England team has been calling for root and branch reforms.
All things considered, it probably made sense England would enjoy their most promising day of a miserable Ashes to date after such a harrowed build up.
After reaching rock bottom, there was finally some cheer amid the showers on the opening day of the fourth Test at Sydney Cricket Ground.
Sure, there is only pride to play for with the series already 3-0 and just the matches in Sydney and Hobart remaining.
But England showed they at least still have a little bit of that left as they limited the home side to 126-3 from the 46.5 overs they managed on Day 1 at the SCG.
The fact it was Stuart Broad who led the way felt appropriate. The veteran of 150 Tests and 526 wickets has had a bit part in this series, and some have forecast he could be about to be pensioned off.
All of which has been much to his chagrin – and the surprise of the opposition, too. In the lead up to the Sydney Test, Australian batter Steve Smith pointed out: “We have been surprised, there has probably been two wickets [in Brisbane and Melbourne] that would have suited him well.”
By opting against selecting him, England threw out the chance of Broad revisiting the dominance he enjoyed over opener David Warner in England’s most recent home Ashes series.
Graham Thorpe, the coach who has taken charge of England for this game in the absence of the isolating Chris Silverwood, termed Broad a “caged tiger” on the eve of the game.
He took the first wicket. Predictably, it was Warner who perished, edging to Zak Crawley at second slip.
Warner’s departure brought the world’s No 1 Test batsman, Marnus Labuschagne, to the crease, but was also followed quickly by one of the number of rain breaks that were endured over the course of the day.
When play resumed, Labuschagne and Marcus Harris set about chipping away at England’s fragile spirit again, as they put on 60 for the second wicket.
With the score on 111, though, they were prised apart when James Anderson had Harris caught by captain Joe Root at first slip.
The reward that brought the tourists was dubious. It pitted together Labuschagne and Smith, his forebear as the game’s premiere Test batsman and England’s Ashes tormentor-in-chief.
And yet their alliance lasted a mere seven balls and six runs as Labuschagne was undone by Mark Wood for 28.