Battered by a buoyant England side riding seemingly unstoppable momentum, Australia trudged off Edgbaston with tails firmly between legs after a semi-final hammering overnight.
Chris Wakes, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid put in performances to remember in Birmingham, skittling the Australians for just 223 in 49 overs before Jason Roy put the Aussie bowlers to the sword.
At 3/14, a shellshocked Aussies never wrestled the momentum back from an England side that are now indisputable favourites to claim their first piece of silverware at a global ODI event.
A World Cup final, as it turned out, would prove a bridge too far for Australia.
But while disappointment is the overwhelming emotion after the loss, and will remain so for the coming days, they can take heart in their ODI revival under Justin Langer and Aaron Finch in 2019. Suddenly, the Aussies are competitive again.
Amongst the sorrow, and despite the hammering in Birmingham, the side has returned as a force in one-day cricket. After years of disjointed tactics, incoherent squads and poor results, the Aussies have quickly turned things around under fresh leadership. In just six months, the side who looked at long odds to get anywhere near the knockout stages would finish a more-than-credible second in the group stage.
This isn’t clutching at positives to deflect from a poor semi-final showing. There’ll be time for that. Rather, it’s to take a step back from the immediate disappointment to reflect that beyond the World Cup, Australia is once again a competitive force in 50-over cricket.
Sure, there was disappointments at this tournament. Australia’s two all-rounders failed fairly spectacularly. Plans for a frontline wrist spinner were scuppered while more broadly, certain players made contributions too infrequent throughout.
But on the whole, the tournament was a good one for Australia. So accustomed to winning, fans of a particular generation might think a failure to make the final equals, well, a failure. But when you consider the wider context of where Australia was at the start of the year, the effort was commendable.
Further, the result overnight was a fair one. England have been far and away the best 50-over side for at least two years, setting new heights in the format and smashing records along they way. And while cricket, and sport, doesn’t always reward the most deserving sides, on this occasion it did.
The eight-wicket loss was far from pretty for the Aussies, and the review (whenever that happens) will be fairly scathing. But Finch was magnanimous in post-match interviews.
“There’s still a lot of positives to take out of the World Cup campaign and the last few months,” he said. “We’ve come a long way from where we were at this time last year.”
And he is right. It was just over a year ago, you’ll remember, that England plundered a record 481 against a demoralised Australian team at Trent Bridge. Just four players that day made the 15-man World Cup squad (Finch, Stoinis, Maxwell, Shaun Marsh), reflective of the clear out that was to come.
The game also effectively finished Tim Paine’s run as ODI captain, paving the way for Finch to take over for the three-game series against South Africa in November.
The Aussies would go on to lose that series 2-1, the same scoreline they would lose a subsequent home series against India. At 2-0 down in the return series in India, the Aussies had by then become all too familiar with losing. But a stunning fightback to win 3-2 would instil a belief that has carried the side since then.
Finch touched on this, too.
“In the last six months there’s been a lot of backs to the wall, and character shown. A lot of hard work has gone in so I’m really proud of how the group’s progressed over the last few months.”
He and Langer deserve credit for turning around a side that had at one stage lost 22 of 26 games. A culture of losing has been turned on its head.
But the pain of this loss will string.
“Yeah, it still hurts,” Finch confirmed.
And it will for some time.
But the side’s progression since the start of the year should temper the wider disappointment that many fans will feel today. It was far from ‘the one that got away’. No, the Aussies were beaten thoroughly by a better side.
But their reformation from easybeats back to the competitive side they once were means the future, at least, is bright.