England v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Old Trafford June 29, 2006

'Guys don't become bad players overnight' - Strauss

England's think tank was at a loss to explain another defeat © Getty Images

Andrew Strauss was again forced to defend his players after England went down by 33 runs against Sri Lanka, at Old Trafford, their fourth straight defeat, leaving them on the brink of a whitewash. The same frailties which have been exposed throughout the other matches, loose bowling, sloppy fielding and wasteful batting, reared their heads again leaving Strauss with a familiar line to toe.

"Guys don't become bad players overnight," he stressed, "although a few players are struggling for confidence at the moment there is definitely a lot of talent there but one-day cricket exposes any weaknesses you have. I still maintain that sometimes you learn a lot more from your defeats and your low times than you do from your high times. We will be better for this in the long run."

There is one match left, at Headingley, on Saturday for England to save some face, the same day as the footballers play their World Cup quarter-final against Portugal. The news that Headingley will show some of the action on the big screen should ensure most of those who hold tickets will turn up and Strauss is determined England will put on a decent show.

"No one wants to lose the series 5-0. We came into the series with very high hopes but have lost four in a row and we have one game left to show a glimpse of what we are capable of. We have to remain positive and hopefully things will turn round. I've been saying that for a few games now but there is one game left and I'm sure the guys will be motivated for that."

Strauss was almost at a loss to explain why England keep on making the same mistakes, despite endless meetings and practice sessions. "We had a pretty honest and serious discussion after the Durham game and I think all 11 players resolved to improve their performance one way or another.

"The guys responded excellently in practice but that is irrelevant really, it's what happens on the pitch that matters. There are a lot of guys in the squad that have got one game left to show what they can do because we haven't shown our capabilities to any stretch."

Strauss is finding himself in a position that became familiar to England captains during the 80s and 90s as the team descends further into a slump. "It's tough because when you are captain you take things a bit more personally," he admitted. "I'm trying to take the positives out of it, I think I've learnt a lot from the series and I will probably continue to do that in the next game. Things can only get better."

For Sri Lanka, however, things just keep on getting better but Tom Moody refused to be carried away by the situation. "We are doing some good things but there are areas we can still improve," he insisted. "We've had some tough times over the last 12 months as we develop as a side, and I'm sure we will hit some hurdles in the future, but it's nice to be playing good cricket away from home.

He was especially pleased with the way his team hadn't let the dead nature of the match effect their performance levels. "It was very important and something we discussed. It is easy to take your foot off the pedal and we identified why we couldn't afford to do that. They played with everything they had and finished the job nicely."

The Sri Lankan team has come a long way in a short time and Moody even allowed himself to think slightly further ahead, to West Indies next March. "There is a lot we have gained here as a group, we are in a transitional period, and it's good that we are making some significant strides forward. Hopefully we will be good shape to compete in nine months time." What England would give to be in a similar position.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo