Andrew Strauss, the England captain, has warned that his side would have to urgently show some results if they are ever to be contenders for next year's World Cup in the West Indies. Sri Lanka cantered to a comprehensive eight-wicket win at Chester-le-Street on Saturday, their third consecutive win in the five-match ODI series.
David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, made similar comments after the first ODI at Lord's, where he urged England to get their act together in both forms of the game if they are to succeed in the Ashes series and the World Cup. He also urged the current crop to stand up and be counted, with senior players like Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff nursing injuries, a concern shared by Strauss as well.
"Every game between now and the World Cup is important," Strauss told reporters. "Sure we have injuries and there are players to return but you don't know who's going to be injured at the time of the World Cup. The guys that are not necessarily in our first-choice XI at the moment, they've got to show they are up to world-class standard and so far we haven't done that.
"There's no place to hide in international cricket and this is where you see guys' real characters. We'll learn a few things about some players in the next few days.We've still got 20 or so games to go till the World Cup - plenty of time to build-up some winning momentum but you've got to start sooner rather than later."
Strauss highlighted England's bowling woes, especially after seamers Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood were smashed out of the attack, conceding over seven runs per over, forcing him to rely on his non-specialist bowlers who were just as ineffective. He also urged the batsmen to focus on converting their good starts into big scores, after Ian Bell looked set for a ton before being run-out for 77.
"The main problems have been the same problems all the way through the series - no batsman getting a hundred and from the bowling point of view we didn't hit our straps early," Strauss said. "That enabled Sri Lanka to get off to a flyer and once they got into that position, they didn't have a lot of pressure on them. I've seen the guys in practice and they bowl straight and I've seen them for their counties and they bowl straight."
His counterpart Mahela Jayawardene was understandably delighted after his undefeated 126 sealed the series. "That [3rd ODI] was probably the best game we've played out of the three," said Jayawardene. "I think our bowlers bowled really well and when chasing a score it's important one of the guys makes a big hundred and it was my day here. This is very big. The whole tour has been hard for us. When we came here a lot of things were said about us being a young side but our guys worked really hard and it's paying off now."