Our standards slipped - Strauss
Captain Andrew Strauss blamed a “return to old habits” for England’s 78-run defeat to Australia in the fourth one-day international at the Brit Oval.
After a 155-run stand for the third wicket between Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, who made 99 not out an 92 respectively, formed the basis of Australia's 290 for five, the hosts were bowled out for 212 in 42.4 overs.
Defeat represented England’s first in nine one-day contests, and ended their hopes of completing a whitewash over Australia in the five-match NatWest Series, which concludes at Lord’s on Saturday.
“It was not so good today,” admitted Strauss. “We got off to a good start with ball but fair play to Clarke and Ponting.
“We thought that 290 was chasable and if not par then only just above a par score.
“But with our batting we reverted to old habits. We lost too many wickets too early and then a few in the middle to leave us with too much to do.
“Even at the halfway mark we thought we had a chance. It was a fairly flat wicket, but we didn't take advantage of the first 15 overs and lost wickets.
“It was a disappointing day, but you have to put it in the context of the series and we have had a lot of good days so far.”
England hinted at making a game of it only in short spells, when they restricted Australia for a time after Ponting was out, and fleetingly while Eoin Morgan and Michael Yardy were together with the bat.
Strauss’ attack could not keep the run rate down between Clarke and Ponting on a very good pitch, after England had chosen to field first again.
“We struggled to find ways of ’dotting them up’,” added the captain. “We tried seven bowlers, but on a flat wicket it was easy to hit through the line of the ball.
“But we bowled exceptionally well in their batting powerplay, and I think we felt we had a good chance of chasing 290 on a very flat wicket. But we just didn’t get the batting right.
“I wouldn’t be that harsh on the bowlers. I thought it was more the batsmen who were at fault today.
“There were too many early wickets, and that puts a lot of pressure on the middle order - and Australia kept chipping away with wickets.
“It wasn’t as good a performance as the first three (matches), and we’ve got what we’ve deserved.”
Strauss confirmed he chose to put Australia in on the basis that England have previously chased well in this series.
“The idea of chasing down anything Australia set us has worked pretty well in the first three games - and we didn’t see any particular reason to change that today.
“When you lose in that fashion, you always think ’Well, maybe we should have batted first’.
“But I’m pretty comfortable with that decision. I just don’t think we did enough things well today.”
Australia, number one in the ODI rankings to England’s five, restored the natural order with the minimum of fuss - dashing the notion that England could push for an unprecedented ODI clean sweep of their Ashes rivals.
“It wasn’t a secret hope. We were very hopeful we could do it,” said Strauss. “What we were trying to focus on was getting it to 4-0, trying not to look too far ahead.
“But Australia did what you expect them to do; they came back hard at us today and put in the better performances.
“They had three excellent performances in the game, and that’s why they won. But we could have played a lot better than we did.
With a 5-0 rout now out of reach, Strauss did not rule out the possibility of changes being made to the side.
He added: “I don't know; we'll see. We certainly want to finish the series 4-1 instead of 3-2 and finish well. As for personnel, we'll have to see how the players are tomorrow.”