Eoin Morgan emphasised the high standards he will hold England to by insisting his side had been short of their best despite a 4-1 series win over Australia.
Morgan captained the tourists to a comprehensive one-day triumph after the dark days of the Ashes, toppling the hosts in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.
Trouncing the reigning world champions on their own soil is a fine feather in England’s cap as they build towards a home World Cup in 2019, but there is no chance of getting carried away with Morgan at the helm.
“The big thing I’d emphasise to come from this series was the character within the side. I don’t think we played well at all throughout the series,” he said.
“I still think we have a while to go. The consistency with the bat has faded off a little bit and it had probably been our strongest point (previously).
“But on the other hand you’ve got some exceptional performances by the bowlers. They’ve stepped up in the series probably more than our batters.
“That’s a huge positive for us, particularly in 50-over cricket when you can go through lulls of not taking wickets. I thought our guys stood up really well.”
Watched some special performances over the last couple of weeks. 4-1 in the series, an amazing team to be apart of! That winning moment.. WHAT A DAY!!! pic.twitter.com/O2ZIOGBZ8E— Tom Curran (@_TC59) January 29, 2018
Reflecting on the contest as a whole, he added: “We said at the start of the series we might learn a lot and might open up some cracks but I certainly didn’t think we’d learn as much as this or get quite so much confidence.”
One of the bowlers who took the chance to impress Morgan was Tom Curran, unused in the first three matches but a match-winner in Sunday’s dramatic finale in Perth.
The 22-year-old claimed five for 35 in just his third appearance, taking the key scalps of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell before skittling the tail to seal a 12-run win at the first day of business at the new Optus Stadium.
“We made 260 which is not really a competitive score anywhere you go,” said Morgan.
“But Tom bowled well up front and to get Maxwell at the stage he did was brilliant. Coming back and being an exponent of reverse swing like that was outstanding.”
England partially avenged their Ashes defeat by dominating the one-day internationals Down Under, winning 4-1 for a first ever bilateral series win in Australia.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five lessons from the 50-over leg of the tour.
England are real World Cup front-runners
There is no traditional English reserve when it comes to the ECB’s one-day ambitions – having missed out on last year’s Champions Trophy, nothing less than a World Cup win at home in 2019 will do. On this evidence, they have the tools to get the job done.
By taking Australia down in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth – each in slightly different circumstances – they exhibited skill, steel and the benefits of a settled team. With 18 months to refine things and priceless benefits of home advantage, the Three Lions are surely the team to catch at this stage.
Morgan’s leadership more important than his runs
Eoin Morgan the captain has had a superb couple of weeks, coping admirably with the lack of Ben Stokes and shuffling his options impressively.
He instils clarity and confidence in those who take the field with him and demands they aim high at all times. Eoin Morgan the batsman is in a funk, struggling for timing and runs.
He did, of course, score three one-day centuries in 2017 but even if his form never returns to its peak, the Dubliner’s presence remains vital to the entire project.
Pressure on places
At times in the past year the selectors have been searching in vain for players ready to build lasting Test careers, but the opposite is true in the white-ball arena.
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales appear to be playing for two places, with Stokes a certainty to return once his legal issues are resolved, and will continue to keep each other honest at the top of the order.
Tom Curran’s match-winning turn in Perth took him from back-up man to genuine contender and the talented Sam Billings could not get a game. It is now a squad with real depth.
Root has the right role
Given Australia’s glittering history in one-day cricket, it was refreshing to hear Australia skipper Steve Smith laud England’s methods throughout the campaign. One theme he returned to often was Root’s ability to hold the innings together and let others tee off around him.
Smith tried to perform a similar role and conspicuously failed. Root has finessed his job brilliantly over a two-year period, scoring at a solid rate while keeping the percentages firmly in his favour.
His boundary count is typically well below his top-order colleagues but his ability to pick gaps and thread the infield means he never gets bogged down.
Managing Wood is key
From the moment Mark Wood hustled David Warner with a vicious bouncer in Melbourne, it was clear what an asset the Durham man is.
But the fact he has played just 10 Tests, 23 ODIs and two T20s by the age of 28 shows how physically fragile he has been in his career to date.
If England are to get the best from him in the coming years they will need to monitor him closely and pick their battles. Australia’s management of Ryan Harris’ late career should be the template.
Two things are clear after the one-day series between Australia and England. Firstly England may indeed win the Cricket World Cup at home next year, secondly Australia definitely won’t.
The England side is well-balanced and confident and even when they get into a difficult situation they have the resources and personnel to drag themselves out of it. They have a very strong batting line-up, a varied collection of bowlers and their captain, Eoin Morgan, is one of the coolest tacticians in world cricket.
The match that tells us most about England’s strength was not the four matches they won, but the sole match they lost in Adelaide.
In that game they slumped to 8-5 after inspired spells from Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins rolled out four England batsmen for bagels – Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Jos Buttler. Alex Hales also went for three as only one England batsman in the top six got into double figures.
Any other team in world cricket would have held up the white flag, especially after already winning the series.
Morgan’s England are made of sterner stuff with an extraordinary innings from Chris Woakes (78 from 82 balls) lifting the tourists to a competitive 196. They then took seven wickets before the Aussies limped over the line.
Steve “the new Don” Smith, had a shocking series, averaging just 20.4 with a top score of 45. When pressure was applied, something he had very little of during the Ashes, the Australian captain began to look decidedly human.
In comparison to England, Australia look to have a lopsided line-up dependent on a few key batsman (Aaron Finch, David Warner and Smith) and a very long tail which, unlike England, will not get the Aussies out of any tight spots.
Mitchell Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood are all fine Test bowlers but they are not going to get many quick runs, except occasionally Starc, and as bowlers they look far less fierce on batter-friendly one-day wickets.
England in comparison have no tail to speak of with Tom Curran, with an ODI average of 46, not a bad man to have at No10 – if he even gets a game.
There is also one key fact which makes England the team to beat in 2019 – they did all the above without a certain Ben Stokes. Find a spot for him in this England line-up and it start to look very formidable indeed.