The greatest embarrassment was saved to the last. Perhaps it was not the biggest humiliation of a perpetually bruising winter, since losing the Ashes 5-0 takes some beating in anybody’s collection of Wisden, but defeat in Chittagong to the Netherlands by 45 runs pushes it close.
It was a simply dreadful end to the worst period in England’s history. Anybody who suggests that the country’s cricket is not at a low ebb after this final loss to a bunch of unsung cricketers, most of whom would not make a county XI, is either misguided or plain bonkers. England do not play again until May when they travel to Aberdeen of all places to play Scotland. No one should make the mistake of thinking of it as a goodwill mission.
Between now and then they will appoint a new coach and the case for Ashley Giles being given the job has been reduced by at least 45 reasons. As limited-overs coach at present, he made no attempt to conceal the gravity of England’s wretched efforts in their last World Twenty20 match against a team which qualified at the last gasp, if only because there was nowhere to hide.
The match was meaningless as far as the tournament was concerned. Both sides had already been eliminated, but England played for far too long as though it was meaningless in all other aspects as well. If any of this lot utter platitudes any time soon about their pride in wearing the three lions there might be cause for a debate on the point.
Giles said: “The sun will still come up tomorrow but sometimes it feels as if it won’t when you have days at the office like that. It wasn’t good from anyone and I’m sure they know that. There’s not much more you can say, it was unacceptable and embarrassing.”
In the next week or two, Giles will be interviewed for the vacant head coach’s position. Not surprisingly, the social networking sites were alive after this defeat with comments on his lack of credentials. If it were to be judged solely on this match, giving him the job might be tantamount to appointing as head surgeon in a senior teaching hospital someone whose experience amounted to 10 years slaughtering animals in an abattoir.
Giles was rueful in assessing his chances after watching his side bowled out for 88 in 17.4 overs. “It never helps losing to Holland,” he said. But England did not simply lose. They were outclassed and, witnessing what was on show, it was easy to question their desire.
They began badly as the Dutch, invited to bat, had a rapid start. Given this shot across the bows, England regrouped and restricted their opponents to 133 for 5. It was, eventually, professionals carrying out a professional task.
At that point, it felt as if England thought it was all over. And so it was for them. They lost to the Netherlands in the 2009 WorldT20 at Lord’s but that went to the last ball. This was a hammering. “I don’t feel tonight feels like an upset,” said their captain, Peter Borren, who played at Lord’s.
Almost all England’s batsmen were casual in their approach and when they realised what was happening it was much too late. There were missed pulls, errant drives and sloppy slogs. As Giles pointedly said: “You know you can’t choose when to turn it on and turn it off and I felt we thought we could today, and 130-odd, yes we should get that, but every run counts, every ball counts for England.”
His ability to ensure a side is in the right frame of mind, properly prepared, is bound to be discussed at his interview and he will have to come up with something plausible. Giles said that he was angry and understood the fans’ reaction. “It wouldn’t be your ideal way to go out,” he added. “I said yesterday that we would have the odd blip and they don’t get much bigger than this. It is just not good enough.”
Two England batsmen reached double figures but from the third over, when the opening batsman Michael Lumb was out, they were never in the contest. The Netherlands bowled tidily and fielded hungrily. This match meant more to them than England.
The international score for the winter across Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20s is England 5, Opponents 18. Did somebody say it was not good enough?