â€œThings can only get betterâ€ was the upbeat if unconvincing message from stand-in captain Andrew Strauss as England were left on the brink of their worst One-day International (ODI) series whitewash by yet another dominating Sri Lanka display.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardeneâ€™s second hundred in as many matches was the cornerstone of his sideâ€™s 33-run win here at Old Trafford that put them 4-0 up in the five-match NatWest Series ahead of Saturdayâ€™s final match at Headingley.
England have been beaten 3-0 on several occasions in the past but the only time theyâ€™ve crashed by five defeats in a one-day campaign was when losing 6-1 away to South Africa in 1995-96.
All the failings that could scupper any hopes England have of winning next yearâ€™s World Cup in the Caribbean were on show again in Manchester, the bowlers delivering 21 wides between them and no batsman making 50, let alone a hundred.
England were, admittedly, without several injured first-choice players including regular captain Michael Vaughan (knee), talisman Andrew Flintoff (ankle), batsman Kevin Pietersen (knee) and all-rounder Paul Collingwood (thigh).
But while strength in depth remains a long-term concern, Englandâ€™s performance at Old Trafford could not be explained by injuries alone. â€œItâ€™s certainly frustrating,â€ Strauss said after a reverse on Wednesday which meant England had lost nine out of their last 10 ODIs against Test match opposition.
â€œWeâ€™ve identified the areas we need to improve and we havenâ€™t improved them so far. Weâ€™ve got to bowl straighter and we need our batsmen to get hundreds like theirs have done - they (Sri Lanka) have got four in four games.
â€œThere are a lot of guys in our squad whoâ€™ve got one game left to show what they can do.â€
Based on current form, home fans may stay away and instead watch the England football teamâ€™s World Cup quarter-final against Portugal.
Source:The NewsMore on:england, Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka in England 2006
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