There was a telling moment in Lahiru Thirimanne's post-match press conference. Asked by a mischievous journalist whether Afghanistan's bowling attack was better than England's, Thirimanne paused to think before answering.

The pause in itself spoke volumes. The fact that he had to weigh-up the relative strengths of a side that has been an Associate member of the ICC for less than two years, against the nation that invented the game. The fact he had to weigh-up the strengths of a side containing players who learned the game in refugee camps, against a nation whose players are millionaires. A side which has been playing ODIs for less than six years, against a side whose board has decided that opportunities for such sides in future World Cups should be limited. His pause damned England as eloquently as his bat just had.

Eventually, with a cheeky smile, Thirimanne replied.

"To be honest, that day Afghanistan bowled really well," he said. "But there was a little bit for them in the wicket. Today it was easy for me, to be honest."

It is hard to refute the suggestion. While Afghanistan reduced Sri Lanka to 51 for 4 in their tight clash a week or so ago, England were able to take just one wicket as Sri Lanka chased down a total of 310 with dispiriting ease. While Afghanistan had an attack offering variety - a left-arm seamer, complementing a right-arm swing bowler, a right-arm pace bowler and a leg-spinner to name but four - England had a six-arm attack offering four fast-medium seamers and two spinners.

True, the conditions were more demanding for England's bowlers. But to see them thrashed around Wellington by the Sri Lanka batsmen was to see an inadequate attack exposed in ruthless fashion.

And the England captain, Eoin Morgan, was in no mood to disagree. Insisting that England had, despite a mid-inning lull that brought 28 runs in 10 overs, scored about "25 above par" on this surface, he laid the blame for this defeat squarely at the feet of his side's performance in the field.

"We bowled a lot of bad balls," Morgan said. "Over the next couple of days we'll get the stats back and the proof will be in that, but my feeling is we bowled a lot of bad balls. When we bowl one bad ball, every couple of overs - or every over - you're going to be punished."

England also missed several chances in the field. The most important saw an edge from Thirimanne put down at slip by Joe Root and Jos Buttler - Buttler initially went for the catch, but then left it to Root - when the batsman had scored just two.

It left Morgan suggesting that England needed to perform the "simple things" well.

"We created a couple of chances which went down, which is always disappointing because it hasn't been happening in training," he said. "But if we're to improve going forward, we have to take wickets early and take our chances. They are very simple things. It's not out of our reach or a million miles away. It's simple things moving forward. I keep banging on about them because we haven't done them so far in this World Cup stint.

"It's not a big deal getting players up for the game. It's a World Cup. Everybody is like a kid at Christmas. They want to play, they want to win. It's just continuing to reproduce the simple things consistently."

At present, one of the most "simple things" in this World Cup appears to be beating England.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo