England are suitably chastened, embarrassed and promise not to let it happen again. They will meet in Manchester on Tuesday to talk of their truly abysmal batting exhibition in the second one-day international against Sri Lanka, desperate to avoid anything resembling it in the third on Wednesday.
To be bowled out for 99 in uncomfortable but wholly familiar conditions was as unacceptable as it comes in international cricket. This side might be evolving under the renewed leadership of the coach, Peter Moores, but any sign of a repeat may lead to extinction pretty quickly.
Joe Root, one of the batsmen involved in the early collapse at Chester-le-Street on Sunday, said yesterday: “If we’re being brutally honest it just wasn’t a good enough performance from the whole team, especially the batters. If you get yourself into a position where you’re 30 for 4 chasing 250 you’re always going to be struggling.
“As a batting unit we’ve got to hold our hands up and say it’s not good enough. We don’t want fans turning up for games and seeing a performance like that. It’s quite embarrassing.”
There was no hairdryer treatment or throwing of teacups after the innings subsided in 26.1 overs. It was England’s lowest total for 13 years and their heaviest runs defeat in this country. But recriminations on the day would have been pointless. Anybody who did not know what he had done wrong or thought he was exempt did not deserve to be playing.
Root, who was bowled by Lasith Malinga on the back foot when he might have been better advised playing forward, said: “As a side we did discuss a few things and we’re all very disappointed with the way we played. I think we’ll have a discussion when we get to Manchester and review the game properly. Sometimes you get emotional on the day of the game so it’s better to leave it a few days and then discuss it as a side. I think that’s what we’ll do. We have got to make sure we’re very honest with ourselves and don’t let a performance like that happen again.”
If that was the party line it was the correct one. This squad may not, in truth, bear much resemblance to that which competes in the World Cup a year from now. It was picked for this series purely because the selectors felt they had no limited-overs form from this season. Equally, they need to find their men soon if they are to avoid yet another poor tournament, which is at least a possibility given the present state of affairs.
Root understandably pointed out the difficulties of facing Malinga with his unique action, which plays tricks with length, but it still emphasised that his comfort zone remains the back foot. In international cricket any batsman is lost without a back-foot game but Root is the embodiment of the need to get forward too.
The ICG ground was far from full for Sunday’s match and it will have done nothing to persuade the denizens of Manchester, who were proving reluctant spectators, that tomorrow’s third match is worth attending.
“I just try and concentrate on the cricket aspect but it’s always better when you play in front of a full house, wherever that is,” said Root. “But the one way to get people to come and watch you is to win games of cricket and earn the right for people to want to come and watch us. We don’t want to play like yesterday where people come to watch and feel let down.”
England need to play as they did at The Kia Oval in the first match. Play as they did in the second and the Moores honeymoon period will be done and dusted.