England finished their tour of Australia yesterday beaten, exhausted and desperately worried about the state of their squad for the World Cup. There were enough negatives to cause a bank crash but none could conceal a quiet sense of elation.
Of course, England did not come here to lose the one-day series 6-1, a fate that befell them at the Waca when they were defeated in the seventh match by 57 runs. Nor could they have expected to reach the line so physically and emotionally drained.
The injuries that have continued to mount in the past month may yet have a bearing on their prospects for their second significant assignment of the winter which starts next week. Eoin Morgan is the latest casualty and perhaps the greatest doubt. It was revealed on Saturday evening that he had broken the middle finger of his left hand, probably sustained in the fourth one-day international in Adelaide nearly two weeks ago.
But none of this nullified the fact that England had done what they arrived to do in late October – to win the Ashes on their opponents' turf for the first time in 24 years. Perhaps it was the gravity of that achievement that affected their approach to the subsequent one-day series, recognising that nothing they did could match what they had already done.
England's limited-over efforts this winter will be judged not on what happened yesterday at the Waca, or in the three weeks preceding it but on how they disport themselves in the sub-continent over the seven weeks from Sunday. While the one-day events in Australia make it unwise to be rampantly optimistic, they should not render England's chances as hopeless.The sense of ennui in England's play yesterday was obvious. They did some good things but they did some awful ones.
Liam Plunkett, who had joined England after flying 13,000 miles from St Kitts, where he had been with England Lions, took his first international wickets for almost four years. But like all his colleagues he was guilty of sending down wayward deliveries that released pressure.
Between them the bowlers delivered 18 wides, invariably a portent of disaster in limited-overs cricket. Although Australia responded like for like in this regard, England's batsmen were once more collectively lacking.
When the 15th over was reached, the pursuit of 280 to win, perfectly attainable on a pleasantly hot day on a true pitch, was already effectively ended. England's top five batsmen had all gone, the opening pair in the first two overs, and 64 for five was not the sort of platform from which to build for victory. It was, as the captain Andrew Strauss said, criminal.
Minds may have been elsewhere: on the four days back in England and on the size of the challenge awaiting them in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh when they depart next Saturday. Huge decisions must be made about the composition of the squad, with six of its members still on the casualty list.
As the latest it seems Morgan may be the least likely to make it and his absence would be a severe blow to England's plans for batting in the middle and at the end of the innings.
Doubts still remain about Tim Bresnan's calf and Ajmal Shahzad's hamstring with Stuart Broad's abdomen, Graeme Swann's knee and Paul Collingwood's back all thought, but no more, to be recovering in time for the tournament.
"We have got to see who's fit and not fit and have a clear idea of who our best 11 available players are," said Strauss. "We've got to think about what we haven't done well on this tour and about how to adapt our game to the sub-continent pretty quickly. There are a few things for us to think about.
"I feel very confident we can do well out there but we need to play in a different manner from how we have in this series. We're going to have to think through what stage is the cut-off point that a guy needs to be replaced. We're pretty sure that most of our other injuries will be fine."
Morgan first felt discomfort during his innings in Adelaide but believed, perhaps hoped, that it was merely bruised. He played two more matches and when it failed to start improving he recognised that something might be amiss. An x-ray revealed a fairly sizeable break.
He will see a specialist in London today. The selectors will meet tomorrow almost as soon as the team has touched down at Heathrow.
The absence of Morgan yesterday took to 12 (from a total of 30) the number of missing World Cup players on both sides. With Australia already 5-1 ahead it made the final match little more than a glorified exhibition.
Following the course that the whole series has taken, England soon had Australia in early trouble. At 103 for four, the tourists might have had visions of an early finish. But a fifth-wicket stand of 95 between Adam Voges and David Hussey, crucially from only 75 balls, ensured a significant recovery. The partnership was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd.
Voges might have been a late replacement, a sop some said, and Hussey might have left to ply his state trade elsewhere, but both are good old Western Australian boys and both were treated as such by the capacity crowd.
There was the rub. By general consensus the series was at least two matches too long, yet in Perth it was still considered a big day out.
PERTH (One Day): Australia beat England by 57 runs
Australia won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
T D Paine lbw b Plunkett 5 0 0 7 12
†B J Haddin c Finn b Yardy 27 1 1 58 92
C J Ferguson c Strauss b Anderson 15 0 3 23 22
*C L White c & b Yardy 24 0 1 47 75
D J Hussey c Bell b Plunkett 60 1 5 60 78
A C Voges not out 80 0 4 72 108
M G Johnson c Prior b Anderson 26 0 2 25 30
J W Hastings c Wright b Anderson 6 0 1 4 9
J J Krejza not out 6 0 0 4 7
Extras (lb11 w19) 30
Total (for 7, 50 overs) 279
Fall: 1-16, 2-35, 3-72, 4-103, 5-198, 6-243, 7-263.
Did Not Bat: S W Tait, D E Bollinger.
Bowling: J M Anderson 10-1-48-3, L E Plunkett 10-0-49-2, S T Finn 10-1-57-0, L J Wright 9-0-47-0, M H Yardy 10-0-59-2, I J L Trott 1-0-8-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
*A J Strauss b Tait 0 0 0 2 1
†S M Davies c Haddin b Bollinger 0 0 0 6 12
I J L Trott c Hussey b Johnson 14 0 1 22 45
K P Pietersen c Krejza b Johnson 26 0 3 31 44
I R Bell c Tait b Johnson 8 0 1 16 29
M J Prior c Hussey b Krejza 39 0 3 51 66
M H Yardy not out 60 1 3 76 124
L J Wright c Bollinger b Krejza 24 0 3 19 18
L E Plunkett c Haddin b Tait 20 1 0 32 40
S T Finn b Tait 0 0 0 3 0
J M Anderson c Haddin b Hastings 4 0 1 7 11
Extras (lb3 w19 nb5) 27
Total (44 overs) 222
Fall: 1-0, 2-5, 3-48, 4-56, 5-64, 6-119, 7-152, 8-200, 9-200.
Bowling: S W Tait 8-1-48-3, D E Bollinger 7-0-46-1, M G Johnson 7-0-18-3, J W Hastings 9-0-39-1, J J Krejza 9-0-53-2, D J Hussey 4-0-16-0.
Umpires: Asad Rauf and P R Reiffel.