England's destiny in the World Cup is now out of their hands. It is what happens when you start losing matches.
If results do not fall their way this week, England could be eliminated from the tournament whatever happens in their final group B match against West Indies on Thursday.
Group A is now done and dusted with the expected teams already qualified for the quarter-finals and only jostling for position to determine who goes where. But five teams in the second group are now involved in a competition to reach the final eight, which might not be decided until the last match next Sunday. It is what England come to World Cups for.
First, England must defeat the West Indies. Lose and their tournament is definitely finished, since four teams now have six points after Bangladesh's straightforward victory against Netherlands yesterday.
Were England to prevail – and they are still talking as if they intend to win the whole shebang – they would have to wait. Several permutations are possible. If South Africa beat Ireland in Kolkata today, they would have eight points and be through.
South Africa's last match is against Bangladesh on Saturday which Bangladesh would need to win to overtake England. In that event, both Bangladesh and South Africa would have eight points. On the following day, Sunday, India play West Indies in the group's last match.
If West Indies win they would also have eight points, leaving India and England both on seven. The last quarter-final place would then come down to net run rate (NNR) – that is the number of runs conceded per over in the competition taken away from the number of runs scored per over. At present India's NNR is better than England's.
Of course, if Ireland were to perform one more giant-killing and beat South Africa, it would leave South Africa needing to beat Bangladesh on Saturday or themselves face elimination. The likelihood is England must beat West Indies and rely on India to do so.
Graeme Swann, their master spin bowler on whom so much may rely on Thursday on what is likely to be a slow scoring, turning pitch, said: "There is only one way to look at this. It is the biggest tournament the 50-over game throws up so everyone would love to win the World Cup. It is a tournament that is there to win and the team are very much focused on winning it so we won't complain about fatigue."
England are still clinging to the belief that they can repeat their form of the World Twenty20 last year when they started sluggishly and won going away. Swann, who was fined 10 per cent of his match fee after the game against Bangladesh for swearing at the umpire Daryl Harper, said he deserved the punishment.
He was furious because he was finding it difficult to bowl with a ball soaked by dew. "There's a bigger picture when you're playing the game," he said. "It's not just all about me and how I felt, it's the middle of the day in England and there are going to be kids watching, so just desserts."
He also neatly sidestepped the issue of England's malaise. "A modicum of perspective says we're in the most privileged position going," he said. "An earthquake and tsunami have just killed thousands of people in one part of the world, and in New Zealand. There's a war going on elsewhere.
"If I was to sit here and say 'Oh my God, we're so tired, these five-star hotels, this travel.' That's our job. If that's really an issue, the alternative is to retire from international cricket and return to county cricket." England's mission now is to avoid returning from here sooner than planned.
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