There is invariably an inquest after each England disaster in the World Cup. It usually starts with calls to sack the lot of them, and is then modified to something less extreme until the journey starts again to the next disaster.
What has made the last campaign of indifference different, and especially its salutary conclusion yesterday when England lost the quarter-final by 10 wickets, is they came here with what seemed realistic aspirations of winning the competition for the first time.
Tiredness, injury and alien conditions took their toll but the captain Andrew Strauss readily conceded none of these was what ultimately cost his side. "We were thoroughly outplayed, we can't hide away from that, and lost to a better side, and now we go home with our tails between our legs," he said. "You could cite tiredness but that would be running away from the issue.
"We haven't played well enough over the course of this World Cup. Generally English teams in the subcontinent haven't played well enough to compete day in, day out. We are the latest in a long line of sides who have done that."
One of the calls that is bound to be made with stentorian vigour is for Strauss to step aside as captain and let a younger man with fresh ideas perform the role. It is true that Strauss ran out of steam by the end but he scored England's only century of the tournament – a blazing 158 against India.
"I still think I have a lot of cricket in me, full stop," he said. "But we're going to have to sit down with the selectors and plot a way forward for both the Test side and the one-day side and we are going to have to think what the best options are both leadership and personnel-wise. I just haven't thought about it and now is not the time to think about it."
The specifics of the defeat were grotesque. After losing both openers early, England were left 30 runs short of a reasonable total. They needed early wickets, which was risible considering they did not take any as Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga scored their second hundreds of the tournament and Sri Lanka won with 63 balls unused.
"We thought it was a good toss to win but we know that it was a pretty flat wicket and that 260 or 270 was more like a par score," said Strauss. "We weren't able to get off to a fast start, lost a couple of wickets and had to rebuild. But then we weren't able to go through the gears in the last 10 overs. You have to give credit to the Sri Lankan bowlers, there is a lot of variety there and they were able to build up a lot of dot balls on us and, more than anything, restrict the boundaries.
"So we knew our batting performance was under par but we thought we might pressure them a bit and if we could get two or three early wickets, that might be enough to make pressure count. Unfortunately, Dilshan and Tharanga played very well and it was a very flat wicket which got flatter in the evening. We were thoroughly outplayed." It was an accurate representation of proceedings.
The fact that so many of the players had toured Australia – seven of yesterday's team were in the Ashes – should be evaluated. Strauss said: "It's a huge amount to ask players to tour Australia for three months, the highest intensity cricket for an English team, and then go straight into a World Cup without spending any time at home. The scheduling is not good and doesn't give you the best chance. But that's not an excuse for not doing well here."
In case anybody is of a mind to forget the Ashes, Strauss offered a pertinent reminder of that glorious 3-1 victory. "It was certainly my proudest moment in cricket, I think it was probably one of English cricket's proudest moments. Nobody will ever take that away from us, we were very fortunate to be part of that and it will live long in my memory." The World Cup campaign is better expunged forthwith.Reuse content