England, the champions, went out of the World Twenty20 last night. Needing to beat Sri Lanka to qualify for the semi-finals they fell short by 19 runs.
This was no disgrace against the host nation, though it was entirely predictable. The defence of the title England won in the grand style in 2010 never took off, let alone flourished. A young side, vastly inexperienced in international terms, found themselves outclassed and outsmarted in most of their matches.
The final tie in the Super Eights was a case in point. England knew precisely what they had to do after West Indies had sneaked home against New Zealand earlier in the day in a super over. They never looked like doing it.
Of their five matches, England won two, against Afghanistan, in rollicking fashion, and New Zealand. But around that welcome brace there were heavy defeats and if their batsmen were frequently hapless, their bowlers were rarely imposing.
At best, they looked like a side in the making rather than one that had reached their peak for a major tournament. There were simply too many international apprentices, especially in their batting order, to make a decent fist of competing on level terms.
Stuart Broad, their fledgling captain, knew the truth of it.
"You can look at the missed opportunities but I think throughout the whole tournament we have not been quite good enough," he said.
"What you get with young guys is some days of absolute brilliance and on other days a bit of averageness, and I think as a team over the last few weeks we have shown that.
"Looking at Paul Collingwood's [winning side in 2010], it took him the experience of three World Cups to win it, to find a formula."
England did not learn fast enough. It is obvious that Kevin Pietersen would have made a difference but his squealing supporters should understand the reasons he was left out (in the first place because he had retired from all forms of limited-overs cricket). When Pietersen returns, as he seems certain to do after a peace treaty is signed this week, perhaps in front of United Nations observers, it will not be with an eye on the future. He would have been the second oldest player in this side.
But his absence left England exposed in a fashion that was regularly embarrassing. If spin had been their undoing previously in this competition their difficulties came from a different quarter altogether last night.
Sri Lanka, despite losing wickets in clutches, made 169 for 6, which always seemed likely to be enough. If there was the remotest doubt, it was ended in the third over of England's response when Lasith Malinga, whose slinging action was alien to most of them, took three wickets.
The rest was merely padding. It was exciting padding because it provided a stage for Samit Patel to showcase his talents. Patel, often his own worst enemy because of his reluctance to adhere to training and dietary regimes, has still been oddly treated by England. Used in this competition, when he has been used at all, as an alternative spinning option to bulk up the batting at No 7, he was pushed out at No 4 last night.
He was one of three changes England made to a winning side with Craig Kieswetter being dropped, Ravi Bopara recalled, and Tim Bresnan making way for the return of Jade Dernbach.
The fact that England were 18 for 2 when Patel strode out and a ball later 18 for three, made his entertaining counter-attack the more commendable.
Perhaps he had no option. He certainly had nothing to lose but it was the classiest innings by an England player in the tournament. He kept going, too, but his 67 from 48 balls was always destined to be in a losing cause. England simply could not keep enough wickets in hand.
True, Graeme Swann's maverick flashing blade gave England a glimmer as the pair, not the best of pals in real life, put on 51 in 28 balls. But even T20, like the Ryder Cup, throws up miracles sparingly.
Sri Lanka had been doing much as they pleased with their big two, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, at the crease following another ferocious opening spell by Steve Finn. And they kept slugging when those two were removed in successive balls from Swann.
The pair might have been guilty of sharp practice too. Sangakkara took over the captaincy for the night to ensure that Jayawardene did not receive a one-match ban if he had another over-rate transgression.
The earlier match was as close as could be. New Zealand should have won after keeping West Indies down to 139 but their hesitancy cost them and despite Ross Taylor's 62 from 40 balls, the sides finished level.
The Kiwis would have fancied their chances after making 17 in the super over but Chris Gayle hit the first ball of the West Indies' over for six and that was that.
RESULTS AND FIXTURES
Yesterday: Group E (both Pallekele)
Match tied: West Indies 139 won the super over and eliminated New Zealand 139-7.
Sri Lanka 169-6 beat England 150-9 by 19 runs and eliminated England.
Today: Group Two (both Colombo)
Australia v Pakistan (11am BST)
India v South Africa (3pm)Reuse content