Andrew Strauss has greeted each of England's previous four defeats this series with candour and restraint, but the strain is beginning to show. England's inability to defend 299 severely tested the patience of their generally upbeat captain, and Australia's 5-0 scoreline eroded his usual chipper demeanour when addressing the media after play.

Of particular frustration to Strauss was England's poor ground fielding. The hosts might well have pushed Australia to the wire had they provided better assistance to the likes of Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan in the closing overs, but instead allowed the tourists to cruise to victory with ten balls to spare.

"That's something for which there should be no excuse," Strauss said. "We do a lot of work on the fielding and we should be better than that, so that is frustrating. Some of the bowling could have been better but (Ricky) Ponting and (Michael) Clarke played particularly well and got Australia in a position to win. Then at the back end we weren't able to apply as much pressure as we'd like because our fielding let us down a bit.

"It's one of those thigns that can be quite contagious when a couple of people misfield. Maybe people feel a bit more pressure when they're approaching the ball and they take the eye of the ball. I do know we work very hard on our fielding and the standards we set for ourselves were higher than we showed today."

Australia have never before whitewashed a seven-game ODI series, and England will require a dramatic turnaround if they are to deny Ponting's men at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street. Strauss realises the importance of arresting the slide before England embark on their Champions Trophy campaign, but just how they intend to do so remains unclear following yet another dispiriting defeat.

"It is (deflating) at the moment," Strauss said. "When you're 5-0 down in a seven-match series, I'm not feeling all that sprightly if I'm honest. There were some bits of today which were encouraging.

"I thought our batsmen went out with a much more bold approach and that paid dividends today. I thought that was closer to our potential as a batting unit. It was a far better performance today, so that was encouraging, but in tight games you don't want to let yourself down in the more elementary areas of the game."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo