England’s limited-overs learning curve must continue after their 59-run defeat against world champions Australia at the Ageas Bowl.
Captain Eoin Morgan admitted, after his team faltered to 246 all out in 45.3 overs under lights in pursuit of 305-6, that more progress is needed.
England will head to Lord’s today 1-0 down with four to play in the Royal London Series, after Matthew Wade’s unbeaten 71 revived Australia from 193-6 in an unbroken century stand with Mitch Marsh.
Adil Rashid’s 4-59 was therefore in vain, but an encouraging sign nonetheless – along with Jason Roy’s maiden international 50.
The hosts went on to lose three wickets in four balls on 194, and their last eight for 94 as they were bowled out almost five overs short of the allotted 50 for the second time in succession at this venue.
“We can certainly improve,” said Morgan.
“We are a long way off the world’s best at the moment.
“We can learn a hell of a lot, and ultimately it comes down to individual skill.”
He reiterated the observation he made before the start of this five-match series, that Australia are among the toughest opponents.
“We’ll have to play really well to beat them, and we didn’t do enough here today,” he said.
“I think down the line this is going to be a big part of our learning curve.
“Probably in a year’s time, we’ll be expected to chase that down more often than not – especially with that sort of a start.”
Morgan was frustrated that England could not haul in a near-par total, especially after openers Roy (67) and Alex Hales put on 70 in under 12 overs.
“Certainly 305, given the start we had as well, was within our grasp,” he said.
“I thought Adil Rashid bowled really well ... a lot earlier than he has been used to and with a newer ball, which was another big test for him.
“For him to come out and hold his nerve against a good batting line-up, I was very impressed.
“In the chase, there was probably about 15 overs (in the middle) where Australia bowled really well.
“(But) I felt that if we came out of the back-end of that, maybe them only earning one wicket, we would have been in a commanding position.”
Australia insist, meanwhile, that they will be more than happy if England stick to their gung-ho gameplan at Lord’s – because that way the tourists believe they can take wickets.
All-rounder Mitch Marsh senses Australia’s success in Southampton was an important one.
They have already lost The Ashes Test Series this summer and were also defeated in a one-off NatWest Twenty20, raising the stakes for the one-day international series.
Like England, Marsh claims Australia have more than enough talent to be pro-active too, but he spots an opportunity in counter-attack if England stay on the front foot.
“The term ‘playing without fear’ is often thrown around, but I think in this side we have enough players to go out there and back ourselves in whatever we’re doing,” said Marsh.
“We know they’re going to come hard at me, ‘Watto’ (Shane Watson) and ‘Maxi’ (Yorkshire’s Glenn Maxwell).
“We said in our team meeting that it gives us an opportunity to take wickets.
“If they’re going to come hard at us then so be it ... the only way to stop their team scoring runs is by taking wickets. Our attack allows us to do that.”
Australia return to the capital this weekend having won both Ashes Tests there this summer, with Marsh involved each time after being recalled in place of Watson at Lord’s.
The urn was lost 3-2 to England, leaving the all-rounder to reflect on that disappointment but also seek some ODI redemption.
“It’s obviously been a long tour and it’s never easy when you don’t win,” said Marsh. “It was my first Ashes experience, so it’s certainly been an eye-opener.
“For me, the goal has been to win this one-day series. I really want to beat England in England and I hope we can do that.”
Unlike in the Ashes, Australia have struck the first blow.
“We’ve got ourselves off to a great start,” said Marsh. “There’s no doubting this was a really important game.
“I think it’s good we’ve only got a one-day break because we can go into Lord’s with a lot of confidence from this game.”
Yorkshire’s Rashid took the first four wickets to put Australia in transient trouble in the opening match, but Marsh is confident the leg-spinner can be tamed.
“He bowled pretty well ... we obviously gave him a few wickets and that helps spinners with their confidence,” he said.
“But I think we’ve done enough homework on him and we’ve got a lot of guys that play spin really well so that, we hope, we can nullify him.”