England searching for Aussie ruthlessness

While Australia completed their ODI Series with a win, England failed to inflict a whitewash in Wales

In the end, the whitewash wasn’t to be for England. Never before had they won a home one-day series by a 5-0 margin and they fell at the last here in Wales as Pakistan showed some belated fight to avoid total humiliation.

England, with just five more ODIs on home soil before next year’s Champions Trophy begins, stumbled to a four-wicket defeat in Cardiff to conclude what had been an unbeaten northern summer in 50-over cricket on a losing note.

Report, scorecard: Pakistan avoid whitewash in Wales

Despite the high of last week’s record total of 444-3 at Trent Bridge, it was a warning shot across the bows of a team who, while developing into a formidable and exciting unit, are far from the finished article.

Australia, who along with New Zealand and Bangladesh, will be grouped with England in the Champions Trophy, will have taken note, especially as they underlined their own status as the world No1 ODI side with a five-wicket win in Pallekele against Sri Lanka that wrapped up a 4-1 series win of their own on the same day.

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Pakistan, remember, are ranked ninth in the world and were there for the taking in Cardiff even after England posted a far-from impregnable 9-302 batting first. The feeling is the likes of Australia or India might have been more ruthless.

It’s a lesson England, still ranked fifth in ODIs, must learn.

Joe Root, named man of the series for successive half-centuries in the opening three games, certainly believes there is room for improvement.

He said: “Trent Bridge was a great marker, and we want to go further.

“The most exciting thing is we can still get better, going into this winter and the Champions Trophy. You want the guys around you to be able to go out and express themselves, and they are doing it consistently.” 

England captain Eoin Morgan is a realist, who despite the strides made by his side since their first-round exit from the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand 18 months ago was reluctant to answer in the affirmative when asked if this group of players should be considered favourites for the Champions Trophy on home soil.

"I don’t know,” he said. "Australia are playing some really strong cricket, South Africa, India as well.

"I know the last Champions Trophy we played [in the UK in 2013], the pitches were a bit drier than we thought, and brought in sub-continent teams. I don’t think, this far out, you can label anybody as favourites."

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However, Morgan is still pleased with where his team after this defeat, which came despite an ODI top score of 75 from star all-rounder Ben Stokes.

England, who face Australia at Edgbaston on June 10 in their second match of the Champions Trophy, have series in Bangladesh, India and West Indies before they finish their preparations for the tournament with two home ODIs against Ireland and another three against South Africa.

"One of the things we identified before the Pakistan tour was we want to strive to be as consistent as we can,” said Morgan.

"We don’t want to be the best one day and the worst another. Every game throughout the series, we’ve come out with a hunger and determination to perform at our best.

"We have shown a lot of strength throughout this series, and there’s more to build on.

"I think it’s exciting. When we first started as a group [after the last World Cup], we were getting everybody to understand the direction we were trying to go in and the fact it might fall short at some stages but it hasn’t really ever fallen short.

"The attitude and hunger to want to be better playing in that manner, I think, sums up the direction one-day international cricket is going and the talent we have.”

Talent is one thing but as Australia know only too well, the knack is ensuring that talent can hold their collective nerve in major tournaments, especially on home soil.

Next year, with Australia no doubt eager to tap into any English mental weaknesses during the Champions Trophy, will be this team’s true test.