England’s 20-run loss at Headingley means they face the prospect of having to beat Australia, India and New Zealand in their final three group games to guarantee their progression to the knockout stage.
Sri Lanka’s total of 232 for nine was thought to be inadequate at the halfway stage but England got bogged down in pursuit, with Lasith Malinga rolling back the years, bowling with guile and control in taking four wickets for 43 runs.
Joe Root battled for 57 while Ben Stokes was left stranded on an unbeaten 82 from a total of 212 all out, and Morgan, in a terse press conference afterwards, admitted their batting was not up to scratch.
He said: “You look at the basics of a run chase. Partnerships are very important. We struggled to get enough partnerships going. We had a couple of individual innings but that’s not good enough to win a game.
“We are going to lose games in the group stages. We didn’t deserve to win the game, we still need to go back to the process that’s taken us to being a strong side in the world.”
James Vince has struggled to convince in his two innings since replacing Jason Roy at the top of the order but Morgan believes the Surrey batsman’s absence was not a major factor in this setback.
Morgan said: “Obviously we would love him in the side, he’s a huge strength at the top of the order. But that’s not why we lost the game or why we might have struggled on this wicket.
“I would say there were quite a few wickets that were turning points, simply on the fact that you’ve got guys coming in at six who average 40.
“We bat all the way down. Every single one is quite significant because every single one could establish a partnership that could win you the game.”
England have stormed to the top of the one-day international rankings with a vibrant brand of cricket that has earned them a legion of followers, the foundations of which are built on a formidable batting line-up.
Despite falling to a second defeat in six matches, Morgan is convinced there will be a response against Australia at Lord’s on Tuesday.
He said: “The message is quite simple: we need to do the basics along with the way that we play as well. When we get beaten we tend to come back quite strong. We tend to resort to aggressive, smart, positive cricket. Let’s hope that’s the case on Tuesday.”
Jos Buttler became Malinga’s fourth victim pinned in front by a toe-crushing yorker.
Buttler said of the evergreen 35-year-old: “He is just different – as much as you do face him he is different. The stumps are always in play with him. With his release point, if it hits you in line it’s generally close. “We didn’t counter him as well as we could have but credit to a fantastic bowler.”
Malinga’s contribution, in addition to Angelo Mathews’ gritty 85 not out from 115 balls, came in for praise from Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne. He said: “Lasith is a legend. He keeps doing what he knows, the basic things. Those things set an example for the youngsters. He did a really good job.
“It looked like a 300 wicket, we thought it was a good, flat wicket. But when we played it seamed in the first few overs, then it got slower and slower.
“Angelo, in-form, he knows how to play his role. He’s a good finisher and did a good job.”