Cricket World Cup: If only it were possible to put England out of their misery
Alas, they still have four matches to live through, starting with unbeaten hosts India in Lucknow on Sunday; after that, the potential for further misery against Australia, Netherlands and Pakistan.
Mathematically, the defending champions are still clinging on like Harold Lloyd on the side of the clock face in Safety Last!
Realistically, they have already fallen off the side of the skyscraper and on to the busy street below, mangled in the wheels of the onrushing traffic.
This latest defeat, a fourth in five games, by eight wickets against Chris Silverwood’s Sri Lanka, was surely the most depressing of them all.
Where was the response after the 229-run defeat to South Africa on Saturday, England’s heaviest in one-day internationals? Where was the evidence of the subsequent talk that they were going to play aggressively and without fear translating into actual deeds on the field?
Instead, England were dismissed for 156 in 33.2 overs (ironically, it meant that they left exactly 100 balls of their innings unused – there’s a moral in there somewhere) before Sri Lanka romped home with 24.2 overs left, in the process igniting their own campaign which had hitherto matched England’s in terms of results.
A bad day in Bangalore, then, and one that would have been even worse had Sri Lanka chosen to review off the game’s first ball.
Dilshan Madushanka, the left-arm pace bowler, swung back a yorker into Jonny Bairstow, who jabbed down on it and squeezed the ball back past the bowler for threeruns.
An earnest conversation ensued as Kusal Mendis, the Sri Lanka captain and his fielders, discussed whether the ball had actually made contact first with Bairstow’s pad.
Replays showed that it had, and Bairstow would have been gone had they sent it upstairs; instead, the Yorkshireman went on to make 30 before mowing to mid-on.
Optimism engendered by Bairstow’s opening stand of 45 with his Yorkshire team-mate Dawid Malan soon dissolved as England crumbled in dismal style.
The key dismissal was that of Joe Root, who ran himself out contemplating a suicidal single to backward-point, the sort of nervy moment that unsettles a side short of confidence.
Of the batsmen, only Malan looked in anything like form, with England dropping Harry Brook and reverting to their strategy of packing the team with all-rounders, none of whom performed.
Ben Stokes top-scored with 43 before holing out at deep mid-wicket, one of three victims for pace man Lahiru Kumara, who also captured the scalps of Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone.
Maheesh Theekshama, the young off-spinner, also bowled well, while Angelo Mathews – parachuted into the tournament as an injury replacement – played his part with the wickets of Malan and Moeen Ali.
After a fine bowling and fielding display, exemplified by Mendis’ quick-thinking run-out from behind the stumps of Adil Rashid, who was dozing out of his ground at the non-striker’s end while the umpire signalled a wide, Sri Lanka wobbled as David Willey reduced them to 23-2.
But Pathum Nissanka, who hit 77 from 83 balls with seven fours and two sixes, and Sadeera Samarawickrama, who struck 65 from 54 deliveries with seven fours and a six, shared an unbroken stand of 137, guiding them home with embarrassing comfort.
Fittingly, Nissanka won it with a straight six off Rashid, the most expensive bowler at more than eight runs an over. Thus was sealed Sri Lanka’s fifth successive World Cup win against England – a side continuing to hold in India the Indian sign over them.
For England, where to now? A team made up entirely of 30-somethings is looking every inch its age.
There is pride to play for, without a doubt, but this has been a wretched campaign.
Throw in the unhelpful issue of central contracts in the build-up to this match, which seemed to distract from the task at hand, the timing dire, and a general confusion and chaos abounds.
Ultimately, what we are witnessing is the end of an era – the best ever in English white-ball cricket but one now sadly reprising its predecessors.
The captain and coach seem like rabbits in headlights, the selections have been confused, the decision-making has been poor and the results have been awful, the margins of defeat gigantic.
So poor has it been, in fact, that were it possible to take this World Cup “defence” to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, the home of assisted dying, it would surely be the most dignified move.
As it is, there could be a lot more pain and suffering to endure.