Perhaps England's affairs have to become truly appalling before improvement can begin. Perhaps they must hit rock bottom. Perhaps they have. It felt as though they were plumbing those murky depths yesterday in losing the Twenty20 international to the West Indies by six wickets.
It was difficult to believe the tourists were representing the nation that gave this form of the game to the world, more problematic still to think they can yet win an international match of any kind this winter and impossible to contemplate them lifting the World Twenty20 Cup on home soil in June.
There were 12 balls left when the West Indies struck the winning runs. Ramnaresh Sarwan, England's most prodigious adversary in the recent Test series, made 59 in 46 balls. This was no more than a curtain-raiser to the serious business of the one-day international series which begins on Friday but, since England lost 5-0 to India late last year, it hardly augurs well.
England were lamentable, combining inefficiency with naivety and stupidity. Such a blend could have only one outcome: disaster. The West Indies, by contrast, were a cohesive unit who fielded slickly and bowled smartly.
The measure of England's confused approach to Twenty20 was reflected in the composition of the team. There were three debutants and just four survivors from the team humiliated in Antigua last November in the Stanford $20m match. There was also the 11th different opening combination in their 15 Twenty20 internationals. In addition, their captain Andrew Strauss was wearing a borrowed shirt. His had apparently been lost in transit.
As Ravi Bopara and Steven Davies made their way to the wicket, they may well have needed introducing to each other. In the event, they settled quickly and had reached 25 by the first ball of the fourth over when Bopara lost his middle stump. Davies played several sweetly executed square drives and lofts over the infield. But his departure prompted a collapse in which the last nine wickets fell for 66 runs.
The crucial dismissal was that of Kevin Pietersen. It was caused by the crassest of umpiring errors, with Pietersen showing two stumps and clearly being hit on the pads outside leg stump by Sulieman Benn.
The effect on England was cataclysmic. No batsman stayed around long enough to launch a prolonged assault. Owais Shah and Paul Collingwood both holed out, going for broke too early. The first of three men run out was Dimitri Mascarenhas, who first called Andrew Strauss for a sharp single and then changed his mind.
Although Strauss was inventive, he looked out of place at No 6 and his attempts to unleash something that might launch the ball into the stratosphere came to nothing. Dashing for a single, he was the victim of a perfect throw by Shiv Chanderpaul.
England were all out from the first ball of the final over, the first time they had failed to use their full allocation. West Indies merely had to keep the board ticking over, which they did with the occasional more purposeful intervention from Sarwan. It was not what yet another new England needed.
Queen's Park Oval Scoreboard
West Indies won toss
England – First Innings
R S Bopara b Baker......... 13
†S M Davies b Bravo......... 27
K P Pietersen lbw b Benn......... 12
O A Shah c Pollard b Benn......... 6
P D Collingwood c Simmons b Sammy......... 14
*A J Strauss run out......... 22
A D Mascarenhas run out......... 0
G J Batty run out......... 4
S C J Broad c Benn b Edwards......... 2
A Khan b Benn......... 2
J M Anderson not out......... 0
Extras (lb7 w12)......... 19
Total (19.1 overs)......... 121
Fall: 1-25 2-55 3-66 4-82 5-95 6-98 7-114 8-117 9-121.
Bowling: Edwards 3.1-0-18-1; Baker 2-0-12-1; Sammy 4-0-14-1; Bravo 4-0-34-1; Benn 4-0-24-3; Pollard 2-0-12-0.
R R Sarwan b Khan......... 59
A D S Fletcher c Mascarenhas b Broad......... 6
S Chanderpaul c Collingwood b Anderson......... 12
L M P Simmons not out......... 23
D J J Bravo c Pietersen b Khan......... 8
K A Pollard not out......... 4
Extras (b1 lb1 w9)......... 11
Total (for 4, 18 overs)......... 123
Fall: 1-11 2-45 3-105 4-119.
Did not bat: *†D Ramdin, F H Edwards, L S Baker, D J G Sammy, S J Benn.
Bowling: Anderson 3-0-19-1; Broad 3-0-26-1; Khan 4-0-34-2; Batty 3-0-17-0; Mascarenhas 4-0-17-0; Collingwood 1-0-8-0.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and C R Duncan (WI).