Our inexperience showed in one-day cricket
In his final diary piece from Sri Lanka, Alec Stewart looks back at a successful winter but warns that England players need much more experience in international one-day cricket before the next World Cup.
Stewart - excellent winter in the heat
Any tournament that I take part in - and England take part in - we want to win. We won the Test series very well, but in the one-day series we were thoroughly outplayed. Sri Lanka deserved their 3-0 win, and we showed that we've still got a lot of learning to do in one-day cricket in this part of the world. Well as we played Murali in the Test matches, in the one-day series we had to try and score off him and we weren't able to. Chaminda Vaas was quite outstanding with the new ball, which made it difficult for the top order to score freely, and obviously they batted very well.
We also had four or five players who hadn't played any cricket for three or four months - longer in the cases of Alan Mullally and Nick Knight. Also, having won the Test series, without making any excuses, it was harder than we had anticipated to prepare for these one-day internationals. It may be worth looking at in the future. In Pakistan we had the one-days at the start of the tour. When we tour India later this year, we may play the Test series first, come home and regroup, and then go back out again for the one-day series. We might then go straight on to New Zealand for a one-day series there, so you get more continuity.
As for Sri Lanka, you have to give them credit for coming back so well after losing the Test series. They've played much more one-day cricket than we have - we're still very inexperienced really. Since I started in 1989 I've only played 140 One-Day Internationals. Someone from this part of the world would possibly have played 250, so there's a big difference. A lot of these people have three or four one-day tournaments a year around the world, so we need to gain experience. The World Cup's coming up in South Africa, so we'll probably be more at home there, but all the time we're looking to get a squad together for that.
As to the tour as a whole, if I'd been told at the start that we'd win the Test series and lose the one-days, I'd have taken that. They've been quite outstanding Test matches - both here and in Pakistan. We've appreciated all the praise and the good media coverage that we've got, although we were obviously disappointed to lose the one-day series. But in six months' time, people will remember that we won the Test series - will they remember the one-day defeat? That's not belittling one-day cricket; we still want to improve.
Duncan Fletcher has been quite outstanding; from the moment he walked into the job he's impressed everyone. Nasser has a good cricketing brain and the two of them work well together. They bounce ideas off each other, and deserve a lot of credit. At the same time you must give credit to the players who've performed over the last year. On this tour Graham Thorpe's been outstanding - he carried on from where he left off in Pakistan as a batsman, and Darren Gough bowled exceptionally well, backed up by Andrew Caddick with the new ball.
We'll have a break now - the summer contracts will be announced soon, and then Duncan will be telling the counties what his players will be doing. In the meantime, I'll have a rest for the ten days or so when I get back. We'll probably be saying it's too cold in a couple of days' time - but it's been a great winter in the heat.