Moeen Ali has admitted England were given a “wake-up call” by Australia in their opening match of the World Cup.
Australia won by 111 runs in Melbourne, with England flattered somewhat by the margin of defeat. They seemed flustered by the enormity of the crowd and the sense of occasion, with two catches missed in the first five overs and a nervous performance in the field giving way to a timid performance with the bat.
It was the fourth time the sides had played each other on this tour. And the fourth time that Australia had won.
Suddenly, all the talk of a brave new world seemed hollow.
Now, with New Zealand waiting on Friday, Moeen accepts that England played poorly in that first game and have to improve quickly.
“Yes, we were given a wake-up call,” Moeen said. “Australia have set the standard and New Zealand is going to be just as hard we feel.
“That was probably the worst we’ve played in Australia throughout the trip so far. It was a bad result for us.
“We’re going to have to up our skill level and up our game against New Zealand. It shows just how tough international cricket is and in a major tournament we are going to have to be ready.
“We have a tough draw. We have to play two of the best sides in the first two games. But if we can win on Friday it puts us in a great position. It will show everybody that we are a good, serious side.”
England’s players were subjected to a particularly tough fielding session on Tuesday. And while it is normal for the management to send their most successful player from the previous match – unquestionably James Taylor in this case – they decided not to try to put a positive spin on a result that was chastening for all involved. The message was clear: the performance was unacceptable.
The entire tour party was invited to a Maori welcome on Tuesday evening. Part of that ceremony will see the England team issued a traditional greeting. During the briefing process – designed to ensure correct protocols are observed – the squad were warned that, strictly speaking, they could suffer extreme punishment if they fail to observe the correct courtesies and customs. For England it seems there is always another challenge lurking ahead.