England went out of the World Twenty20 last night. Their fate, fully deserved, was sealed when South Africa beat New Zealand by six wickets, making it arithmetically impossible for the gap in the Super 8 group to be bridged.
It was familiar territory for England but it must be the first time in history that they have failed so abjectly in three different limited overs competitions within a year.
They were eliminated early from the Champions Trophy in India last October, they did little more than make up the numbers in the World Cup in the West Indies in March and they have been off the pace for most of the Twenty20 in South Africa. It takes quite some doing to be so awful in so many different time zones.
Perhaps the last failure was the worst because there were genuine expectations that England could do well in the inaugural World Twenty20. They came here with a team well versed in its particular nuances, a group of so-called specialists who would help to handle the peculiar situations thrown up in the shortest form of the game.
Instead, other sides, almost all the other sides that is, have demonstrated greater virtues on much slenderer experience. The match that determined England's destiny did not actually show all of these since New Zealand's innings faltered as so many of England's have done in the past few days.
But South Africa's pursuit was a good example of how to avoid panic. New Zealand made 153 for eight. Like so many scores in the competition it was not as many as they looked like making. Their top scorer, Craig McMillan, did not manage to harvest enough of the strike late in the innings and although his 48 from 24 balls featured some typically free hitting it could have been very different had he faced only another handful of balls.
South Africa, however, made a pig's ear of their reply. For long enough, it seemed as though they were playing to keep England in the tournament. By the eighth over they had stuttered their way to 45 for three and the watching England team could probably sense a lifeline being thrown.
Justin Kemp snatched it back again. After a circumspect start he hit the ball long and hard. One run came from his first 10 balls, 88 from his next 46 including six sixes and six fours. It is not the first time Kemp has helped to undermine England. On England's unsuccessful one-day tour nearly three years ago his spectacular hitting was significant in two of their defeats.
The New Zealand bowling card had an unusual look to it. Mark Gillespie conceded only five runs from his first three overs, including a maiden, Jacob Oram went for 50 in his four.
Apart from England's certain non-involvement it left the group intriguingly poised with the three other teams all still in with a chance of semi-final qualification. That said it all about England.
Elsewhere, Ricky Ponting will discover in the next 48 hours whether he can play any further part in the tournament. The Australia captain pulled a hamstring muscle during Tuesday's defeat against Pakistan and according to a team spokesman, Ponting remains "extremely doubtful" for the remainder of the competition, which ends with the final in Johannesburg on Monday, but Australian team officials are not ruling him out entirely for another two days. He will certainly miss this morning's match against Sri Lanka and is likely to be replaced by Shane Watson.Reuse content