Disappointment and English ODI cricket is a pairing as iconic as fish and chips, gin and tonic or Bert and Ernie and on Wednesday, after a brief two-year hiatus, the estranged couple was reunited under a beating Welsh sun.
It was of course not supposed to be like this. England, following their last ODI tournament humiliation had put the bad old days behind them and, rebuilt in Eoin Morgan’s swashbuckling image, were meant to be on course to sweep all before them.
Now though they find themselves making new plans for the weekend. Now they can be nothing more than spectators for Sunday’s final.
With Pakistan deciding that this tournament was the perfect time to dust off tired, old stereotypes, more mercurial than a leaky thermometer, as they fluctuated between abysmal and unplayable — sometimes in the same over — so too did England, producing a hapless ODI performance that could have easily served as a touching homage to tournaments past.
England’s strength since the last World Cup, and the miraculous beating heart of their reanimated ODI corpse, has been their formidable batting, posting score after score of 300+ and chasing similar totals down with an assuredness that felt as un-English as standing on the wrong side of the escalator on the London Underground.
But in Cardiff, facing their first knockout game since the start of the Trevor Bayliss revolution, when it really mattered they found their powder damp, spluttering to a modest total of 211 with only the odd grumble about used wickets and the enthusiastic cheers of Pakistan’s supporters for company.
Just as South Africa could probably register the choke as a national cricketing trademark, so too did this performance have the distinctive stink of a good old fashioned English bottling — subtly different from the choke which at least requires victory to seem within reach.
Here as if it required too much effort, England dispensed with ever looking like they might win the match and instead skipped almost straight to hopelessly throwing it away. Not one part of their much-vaunted batting lineup fired, even Jonny Bairstow armed with all the luck that had deserted the man he replaced, Jason Roy, and extremely fortunate not to lose his wicket about half a dozen times, could only muster 43.
Faced with the sort of pitch they aren't used to and a fired-up Pakistan bowling attack led by the indomitable Hasan Ali and featuring an ice-cool debut from Rumman Raees, England looked tentative and hopelessly unable to react to the situation playing out before them — and now deservedly find themselves out of their own tournament.
Despite the fairly abject performance just at the crucial moment, it should not be all doom and gloom for Morgan’s men. After all, if the last two years have taught us anything then it is that England can learn from chastening tournament exits better than most — without the debacle of 2015 would any of this have been possible?
For now then this is just one more chapter in English cricket’s timeless relationship with disappointment. A romance still going strong after all these years.
Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 08:25 AM