It's all over now for England. They came, they entertained, they faltered when entertainment alone was not enough. There is a limit to how far refusing to lose alone can take you. On the big day, against a varied attack, England didn't have the quality to put up enough runs to defend. Andrew Strauss had no qualms in admitting that.
"We were not good enough in the one-dayers in either Australia or this World Cup," Strauss said. "I think we scrapped hard, and showed some fight, which is great, but didn't have enough quality to go on and win this tournament. That's the reality.
"I think I can't fault the energy and commitment and the desire that the guys have shown over the course of this World Cup. I think they tried their hardest today, but we were not allowed to play well by a very good side. I think you could cite tiredness, but that would be running away from the issue. Haven't played good enough cricket. Generally English teams in the subcontinent haven't played well enough to compete day in, day out. Disappointing, we have got to be better than that."
Strauss said the side didn't do the fundamentals required to succeed in big events. "If you look at sides that have done well in this tournament, they have got a lot of variety in their bowling attack. We haven't got as much variety as them. They have got batsmen that have consistently made hundreds. Again we haven't done that well enough. These are the stark facts in front of us, we can still go back and get better, no doubt about it. That's what we will be trying to do in the coming weeks."
On a ground that is statistically and historically a good friend of sides batting first, England were tied in knots by a top attack. When they had rebuilt, they were pushed back further. "We were thoroughly outplayed, we can't hide away from that," Strauss said. "We thought it was a good toss to win, we knew it was a pretty flat wicket, and probably 260-270 was more like the par score. Lost a couple of wickets, had to rebuild, but then weren't able to go through the gears in the last few overs. You have to give credit to the Sri Lankan bowlers, there is a lot of variety there.
"We didn't score many boundaries today. We knew our batting performance was under-par, but we thought pressure is a big man, if we can get two-three early wickets, hopefully that might be enough to make that pressure count. Unfortunately [Tillakaratne] Dilshan and [Upul] Tharanga played outstandingly well. We lost to a better side."
That, Strauss said, shouldn't take away from the achievements in the first half of their winter. "The Ashes was certainly my proudest moment in cricket," he said. "Probably one of English cricket's proudest moments for a long time. No one will ever take that away from us. We were very fortunate to be part of that. Since then things have been tough, there is no doubt about that."
World Cup failures usually come with the end of captaincy reigns and a vision to rebuild the team for the next event four years later. Strauss and England haven't thought about that as yet. "I just don't think that now is the time to answer that question," he said. "It's not something that I have thought of beforehand, I certainly have got a lot of cricket in me, full stop. You are going to have to sit down with the selectors, and look back at the tournament, and plot a way forward for both the Test side and the one-day side. We are going to have to think about what the best options are. It's something I haven't thought about, and now is not the time to think about it either."
However, there is a direct lesson to be learnt, and that has to do with the scheduling. "It's a huge amount to ask players to go into Australia for three months, into the highest-intensity atmosphere you can possibly get for an English team, and then go straight into a World Cup without guys spending any time at home," Strauss said. "This certainly is not good."
The prime example of the scheduling's effect was seen on James Anderson, who went from being England's best fast bowler to somebody who just didn't seem up for it in this World Cup. "Jimmy has had a very tough and long winter," Strauss said. "I think he got to a stage where mentally he was pretty burnt out. And you can't blame him for that. He has given everything he possibly can to the side over the course of the six months. He has been our outstanding performer, and he has run in time and time again. I think he reached the end of the road, and needed a break."