Eoin Morgan insists England’s own batsmen cost them the Tri-Series final – not the return of their tormentor Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson was making his first appearance of 2015 and immediately turned back the clock to last winter’s Ashes whitewash, where he was man of the series with 37 wickets.
This time he claimed three scalps, taking out James Taylor, Moeen Ali and captain Morgan in the space of 10 balls as England slumped to 166 all out and a 112-run defeat.
The sight of Johnson wheeling away in celebration will bring most England fans out in a cold sweat but Morgan went out of his way to avoid praising the destructive left-armer.
With most of the current one-day squad not involved during the previous Ashes, the idea of mental scarring is a red herring, but Morgan’s suggestion that England had not given any special thought to facing Johnson rang hollow.
His suggestion that Johnson could have been “anybody” profiting from English mistakes also seemed to stretch credibility.
“I think it probably could have been anybody bowling,” said Morgan, who was bowled offering no stroke by the 33-year-old.
“I don’t think he swung it. We must have put ourselves under pressure. I don’t know why we performed like this.
“We chatted about the opposition very briefly as we’ve played against them so much in the past.
“I don’t think we were threatened that much today. We were poor.”
Morgan was eager to present a counter-narrative after Australia continued their winning run against the tourists.
They have now won all three meetings in the Tri-Series, underlining the dominance they established in 2013-14.
The sides next face off on February 14 in the World Cup, but Morgan insists it is Australia who go into that match with most to lose.
“I think the pressure builds on Australia from that perspective,” he said.
“They’re a home side, their first game of the World Cup, playing against a dangerous side. We’re going out all guns blazing, there’s no pressure from our point of view.”
Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who will join Yorkshire this summer, top-scored with 95 and picked up 4-46 with his pick-and-mix off-spin, and was baffled by Morgan’s comments.
Put to him that England had apparently been unconcerned about Johnson’s efforts he said: “They should be...he had 3-11 at one stage and tore through their top order.
“They can be not worried at all but if they’re getting skittled by him they probably should be.”
England coach Peter Moores, who will give the squad four days off before preparations begin again for the World Cup, echoed Morgan in his appraisal of the batting.
“The lads were really up for the game and a chance to play in the final and obviously today we didn’t play well enough,” he said.
“We just didn’t bat well enough and we got the best of the pitch as well. A top score of 33 (from Ravi Bopara) just isn’t good enough and we have to take that on the chin and look at the reasons why it happened.
“We didn’t put any partnerships together and put any pressure on the Australia bowlers so we didn’t really get into the position where we could have a go at that total.”
The only downside for Australia was a side injury to James Faulkner, who hit an unbeaten 50 and dismissed Yorkshire’s Joe Root with his first ball.
“He’s pretty down at the moment with such an amazing thing coming up for us – a home World Cup,” said Maxwell.
“I know a few of us out there were hurting for him when he went off. We can only hope that is nothing and he’s being soft and he gets back and trains hard with us next week.”
England Lions were left frustrated in their bid to seal a series victory as their third one-day match against South Africa A was abandoned due to rain in Potchefstroom.
Only eight balls were possible – after Lions captain James Vince won the toss and put their hosts in – with two of them bowled by Tim Bresnan, who returned to England colours for the first time since the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh last year.
The Lions had made three changes from the team which won in Kimberley on Wednesday to go 2-0 up in the five-match series, one of which saw Sam Billings return to the middle order in place of Adam Lyth, although Jonny Bairstow retained the wicketkeeping gloves.
Bresnan, who joined the squad in Potchefstroom, replaced Samit Patel, and Boyd Rankin returned to the side in place of Harry Gurney, who was struggling with a slight thigh injury.