If you have the opposition 112-8 on the first afternoon and take a first-innings lead of 90, to get hammered by 251 runs is pretty bleak.
However, that is what England found themselves on the wrong end of on the final afternoon of the first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston.
The mitigating circumstance is the injury to James Anderson, who only managed to bowl four overs on the first morning and essentially left England to play almost the whole match with 10 men.
You have to be careful how you use that excuse, because England took the decision to play him barely a month after he tore his calf.
However, he shouldn’t have played and the consequences will probably be of huge embarrassment to Anderson. He may well feel very guilty and it is perhaps a lesson to anyone who thinks you can rock up to a Test without being 100% sure about your fitness.
No matter who you are, you have to prove you’re fit, and that is exactly what Jofra Archer must do before England can consider giving him a debut at Lord’s next week.
Archer has to go to his Sussex second XI game and steam in. Rather than going through the motions, he has to show how desperate he is to play in the second Test.
If Archer is available, he will bring some much-needed potency to the England attack, who let Australia get away from them on the fourth afternoon.
On a dead pitch at Edgbaston, England had the same problem they encountered in Australia 18 months ago – they were outpaced.
Having said that, Stuart Broad had a terrific match. He stepped up in the absence of Anderson and he must do so again when he leads the attack at Lord’s.
Without Anderson, England will be forced into one change and I’m sure there will be plenty calling for other heads to roll.
I can understand the reasons for supporters wanting changes and it is a similar situation to the 2005 Ashes, when England suffered a heavy defeat in the first Test and there was much debate over who should have been in and who should have been out.
But captain Michael Vaughan did not panic. He kept faith with the same team, who went on to win the second Test on the way to a memorable series victory.
Things can change quickly. On Sunday morning, all of the problems were Australia’s. Now, not only do they have the luxury of Steve Smith scoring a ton of runs, but their middle-order is firing, there are no longer questions over captain Tim Paine, Nathan Lyon enjoyed himself at Edgbaston and they have a battery of fast bowlers.
There is nothing to say that England cannot go through such a swift reversal in fortunes. That’s why the people who are making the decisions over the team must take their time, get away and clear their heads.
They must closely analyse why the first Test was lost, then act accordingly.
Having said that, I worry about Moeen Ali, who looks a cricketer bereft of confidence. He was dropped twice during the World Cup and he is not contributing with the bat. England captain Joe Root needs a spinner who can tie up an end and, at the moment, Moeen is not doing that.
Moeen is not the only concern. Jonny Bairstow is another who is not in good nick at the moment.
Bairstow is an emotional man and it may take him a while to get over the highs and lows of the World Cup. On Monday, he has unlucky to be dismissed when the ball hit the wristband of his glove, but that was still his fourth single-figure score in succession. He has to find a way of occupying the crease.
The same can be said of Joe Denly, who was far too loose in the second innings, and Jason Roy, whose wild swipe at Lyon was off the scale in terms of recklessness.
We were told Roy would play those sorts of strokes and that we need to be patient. I am willing to do that because he is clearly very talented. However, he must demonstrate he has the will to adapt, that he has learned from the mistake. If not, he will not have a future in Test cricket.
Still, in the case Roy and Denly, there are few alternatives. Therefore, now they have been given such a golden opportunity, it is up to them to show that they are up to playing at this level.
The other thing that England must remember is a large part of the destiny of the first Test was taken out of their hands by two brilliant innings from Smith.
Part of the job of Root and the coaches between now and the start of the second Test is convincing the rest that Smith is not a creature from outer space who cannot be bowled to. Yes, he is an important player, but England must a find a way of ensuring that he does not dominate the series.
If they can do that, maybe they can open a few cracks in the Australia side. Let’s not forget that batsmen David Warner and Cameron Bancroft both had poor games in Birmingham.
There is more than a week for England to solve their problems. They can turn things around and I still believe they can win the Ashes.