England 321-7 Sri Lanka 324-2: Sri Lanka win by 8 wickets

England spirit dissolved by whitewash

Well, thank goodness that is all over. No, not the limp yet life-consuming performance of the England football team in Germany, but the even more inept showing of the country's cricketers in the NatWest series against Sri Lanka. Saturday's eight-wicket defeat here, which sealed a 5-0 whitewash for the tourists, was the most humiliating of the lot.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga, who scored 152 and 109 respectively, were magnificent as Sri Lanka chased down England's highly commendable total of 321 for 7, but how on earth can an international side concede 324 runs in just 37.3 overs? Stephen Harmison, yes, the bowler who took 7 for 12 against the West Indies two years ago, conceded 97 runs in 10 overs. These are most expensive bowling figures by an England bowler in one-day cricket, yet, in comparison to Tim Bresnan and Kabir Ali, who haemorrhaged 101 runs in eight overs, Harmison was frugal.

So what can we deduce from the events of the past fortnight? Sri Lanka's confidence has steepled since winning the third Test at Trent Bridge. Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, has been a source of inspiration and his bowlers have bowled with intelligence. Sri Lanka's fielding has been athletic and vibrant and, under cloudless skies, their batsmen have fearlessly gone for their shots. In a form of the game where batsmen win games England's willow wielders have not been dominant and only one player - Marcus Trescothick - scored a hundred. Yet it is England's bowling, and in particular their fast bowlers, that will be causing the selectors the greatest distress. In the five-match series England's fast bowlers have conceded over 1,000 runs at a rate of almost seven runs an over. The bowling of Harmison, Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood, Tim Bresnan and Kabir Ali has been awful, but I do not believe it is because they are all not good enough. As bowlers Bresnan and Ali are limited and, unless they improve significantly, both may have played their last games for England.

Injuries to Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones, and the view that Matthew Hoggard is not a one-day bowler, has reduced the pool the selectors pick from to a puddle, but Harmison, Plunkett and Mahmood should be retained. Despite their showing England are not that bad. The cumulative effect of injury and defeat has drained their confidence, and each time they have dared to stick their heads out of the hole they are in a big mallet has knocked them back down.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, said: "It doesn't reflect our ability. It would be very interesting if Sri Lanka were missing eight of their players and we had our eight injured players back. What then would the result have been?

"It took us three or four years to build that Ashes winning side. It takes time with young players and we have a lot of young players."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high