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Australian cricket coach axed ahead of Ashes

By Tim Hume, CNN
June 24, 2013 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Mickey Arthur has reportedly been sacked as Australian cricket coach ahead of the Ashes series.
Mickey Arthur has reportedly been sacked as Australian cricket coach ahead of the Ashes series.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mickey Arthur is replaced as Australia cricket coach by Darren Lehmann
  • Arthur dismissed after a string of poor performances
  • Lehmann played 27 Test matches for Australia between 1998 and 2004
  • Captain Michael Clarke has stood down as a team selector

(CNN) -- The head coach of the Australian cricket team has been replaced ahead of the Ashes, following a string of poor performances by the sport's traditional powerhouse.

Cricket Australia confirmed on Monday that Mickey Arthur had been replaced as coach by Darren Lehmann, the current Queensland coach who was touring England as coach of the Australia A squad

On a turbulent day for Australian cricket, captain Michael Clarke also stood down as a team selector.

The Ashes, the regular series of five Test matches between Australia and England that is one of the most celebrated rivalries in world sport, is scheduled to begin on July 10 in Nottingham.

England enters the series as the bookmakers' favorite and the current holder of the Ashes, having regained them in 2009 and defended them successfully in 2011.

A South African former domestic cricketer, Arthur had coached Australia since November 2011, following a five-year stint in charge of the South Africa national side.

"Naturally I'm very disappointed with how this has all ended," said Arthur, who was the first foreigner to coach Australia and had been contracted to lead the team until the end of the 2015 World Cup.

"I certainly wanted to see the job through but I accept that the team hasn't been completely galvanized under my leadership and our performances have been inconsistent.

"I'm certainly a believer in good culture and traditions much like all Australians and feel we were starting to get a shift in the right direction. We certainly need the team to be absolutely unified if we're any chance of beating the English."

Lehmann represented Australia in 27 Test matches between 1998 and 2004, scoring 1798 runs.

"Darren Lehmann has been appointed as the new Australia head coach," said Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland.

"He has had outstanding success in a short time with Queensland Cricket winning the Bupa Sheffield Shield, Ryobi One-Day Cup and KFC T20 Big Bash League all within the last two years.

"Lehmann will be contracted until June 2015 -- post the 2015 Cricket World Cup."

Arthur's dismissal comes amid troubled times for Australian cricket, on and off the pitch.

This month the one-day side was knocked out in the group stages of the ICC Champions Trophy, failing to win a match in a tournament it had won the previous two times it had been held. Earlier, the side had been beaten 4-0 in Tests during its tour of India.

Once the dominant force in international cricket, Australia also recently lost the series against South Africa, going down 1-0 in Tests in November, and against England, losing 4-0 in a series of one-day internationals in 2012.

Poor discipline and rumors of disunity have plagued the squad, with four players -- including then vice-captain Shane Watson -- controversially ruled ineligible to play during the recent Indian tour for failing to complete a "homework" assignment set by Arthur on how to improve performances.

Earlier this month, batsman David Warner was disciplined for throwing a punch at England player Joe Root in the early hours of the morning in a Birmingham bar, just weeks after the Australian had found himself in hot water for an expletive filled Twitter rant at journalists. He pleaded guilty to bringing the game into disrepute over both incidents.

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