There may have been more troubled England tours of Australia, since there have been almost 50 of them. At present, however, nobody is bothering to do the research for fear it may be an utter waste of time.

The 2013-14 instalment, which began with such optimistic fervour three months ago, was undermined twice more two days before the second one-day international to foment what is by now a familiar state of chaos.

Steve Finn, the 24-year-old fast bowler who should be approaching the peak of his career, became the third member of the original party to leave for home early.

Finn has technical issues with his action which have got worse and made it impossible for him to be considered for selection. There is no way of telling when and if he will be back and nobody appears to have any answers.


While Finn was packing his bags, Kevin Pietersen, whose shadow looms over all, was named in the preliminary squad of 30 for the World T20 in Bangladesh in March. But Ashley Giles, the limited-overs coach, pointedly declined to speculate on whether he would play for England again in any format.

Asked if Pietersen would resume his international career, Giles said: "I don't know, we have to take stock. We have picked a 30-man squad, nobody is guaranteed ever of playing."

It is difficult to think of what else might go wrong for England with so many players, especially their captain, Alastair Cook, so obviously out of form, confidence so low and a win against Australia looking increasingly improbable.

But Giles was still able to raise a laugh in the face of adversity when he was reflecting on whether Cook might also deserve a break.

"We can't remove everyone from the environment," he said. "It would leave me a bit short."

With Mitchell Johnson returning after a break for Australia at the Gabba tonight, the ground where his startling renaissance began last November, it is possible to think only the worst. Johnson took nine wickets in the first Ashes test and went on to finish with 37 in the series at 13.97 runs each. England's best hope may lie in the fact that he has been weakened by shaving off the moustache that somehow added to his menace.

England's carefully devised one-day strategy, which took them to the Champions Trophy final only six months ago and should have won it, is looking decidedly anachronistic again. Their lack of urgency at the top of the order (as well as form) is placing an unnecessary burden on a lively and innovative middle order.

When England arrived in late October it was with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts. Those have long since been replaced by a plod and a dirge. Finn's departure was not entirely unexpected after his travails in the nets these past weeks. He has lacked any sort of pace and rhythm, and matters have deteriorated rather than improved.

It seems England knew they were taking a gamble when they picked him for the Ashes tour following an indifferent summer when he was dropped after the first home test against Australia - although he did play in the ODIs and T20 matches in September. He was named in the preliminary World T20 squad but barring a sporting miracle it is impossible to think he will be picked in the final 15 early next month, especially as he is now to have two weeks away from the game.

"He's got technical issues and the more troublesome they become, the worse the battle with them becomes. Of course it's going to affect you mentally," said Giles. "Then you start second-guessing what it is, what's the start point, what is the end point, where am I going in my career?"

Finn follows Jonathan Trott, who had a chronic stress-related illness, and Graeme Swann, who suddenly retired, in leaving this tour. It would be unwise to think there are no more to come.

- Independent