MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Alastair Cook's England team came to Australia on a high after a 3-0 home Ashes win and amid speculation it could follow up with a 5-match sweep of the return series Down Under.
After suffering a fourth straight test loss Sunday, England head to the final match in Sydney next week facing the very real possibility of losing 5-0 to Australia for the first time since 2006.
"When we left England, we had high hopes of doing something very special," Cook said after England's eight wicket loss in the fourth test Sunday. "I did say at the time we'd have to play some very good cricket if we wanted to achieve that, and we haven't done that."
In the space of just four months, England has lost the Ashes 3-0, its once feared pace attack appears to have lost its edge, its prolific batting lineup has been awed by the express bowling of a resurgent Mitchell Johnson and the team looks visibly tired.
Add to the that the loss of Jonathon Trott to a stress-related illness and the shock retirement of spinner Graeme Swann mid-series and England looks to have little in reserve to turn around its fortunes in the fifth test, especially after Swann's replacement Monty Panesar failed to find results in Melbourne while his Australian counterpart Nathan Lyon completed a five-wicket haul.
Still, Cook put on a brave face.
"We've some very good players in our dressing room," he said. "We've some record-breaking players who will have some fantastic days left in an England shirt. I know that for sure. And we'll be praising them when they do that.
"We need that coming out of us now in Sydney, and I think that's what we need in Sydney now -- we need an outstanding 100 or an outstanding 5-for and then everyone jumping on the back of that. That's what turns around a team that is struggling like we are at the moment to put in a good performance."
The once ever-dependable Cook has also looked vulnerable, making just 27 in the first innings at Melbourne and dropping a much-needed straightforward catch Sunday inviting criticism of his future as captain.
"Well, in a strange way, I'm enjoying the job and I'm enjoying the challenge," he said of leading a losing side. "I'm totally responsible as captain for the team and if, at the end of the series, the selectors decide I'm not the best man for the job then so be it.
"It would hurt and I've got no plans of going anywhere," Cook added. "I'm desperately trying to use as much as my experience of playing 100 tests to help turn this team around. ... But as I said, if someone says there's a better man for the job then I have to take that on the chin."