England’s excruciating World Cup defence is all but over after yet another shambolic defeat, this time against a Sri Lanka side led by their former head coach Chris Silverwood.
The 2019 champions turned in a meek, error-strewn performance with the bat, blown away for just 156 in Bengaluru, and barely fared any better with the ball as their opponents breezed home by eight wickets in Bengaluru on Thursday.
Summing up the latest disastrous loss was Adil Rashid’s shambolic run out to leave England nine down, the tailender caught napping at the non-striker’s end as Sri Lankan captain and wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis threw down the stumps after a take down the leg side.
Jos Buttler’s side have now lost four of their five games by heavy margins – beaten by New Zealand, Afghanistan, South Africa and now Sri Lanka – and can start booking an early trip home despite having four fixtures still to play in a torturous group stage.
Buttler’s future as white-ball skipper will be in jeopardy and the keeper accepts his future as England captain is now out of his hands after another painful defeat sent his side tumbling towards the World Cup exit door.
“It certainly looks that way and that’s incredibly disappointing. It would need a few miracles,” he said, glassy-eyed after another draining day.
“To be sat here now with the three weeks we’ve had is a shock. It’s a shock to everyone.
“I’ll walk back in the dressing room after this, look at the players and think ‘how have we found ourselves in this position with the talent and the skill that’s in the room?’.
“But it’s the reality of what’s happened over the last three weeks and that’s a huge low point.”
Pressed on his own status in charge of the side Buttler indicated a desire to continue but a realisation that the verdict may not be his to make.
In reality, England do not have an obvious successor lined up and Buttler is relatively new in the role, having inherited the mantle following Eoin Morgan’s retirement last summer.
He also has a T20 World Cup win in the bank and there has been no indication that managing director of the men’s cricket, Rob Key, has an itchy trigger finger.
“I certainly have a lot of confidence and belief in myself as a leader and captain and first and foremost as a player, but if you’re asking if I should still be captaining the team, that’s a question for the guys above me.
“The tournament’s gone nowhere near the way we wanted it to…that much is obvious. As a leader, you want to lead through your own performance and I’ve not been able to do that.”
Although England are still mathematically in the running, with Buttler saying they “need a few miracles” to win their remaining games, their chances of finishing in the top four are slim – and coach Matthew Mott admitted they were resigned to their fate.
“It’s over now, I think. I’m not a mathematician, but with our net-run-rate and too many teams who are going to take games off each other, we have to come to terms with that from now we’re playing for a lot of pride,” Mott said.
“We’ve got a lot to do there, we feel like we’ve let our fans down, our families and supporters and everyone in that dressing room. We haven’t put our best foot forward and in professional sport that’s what you’re judged on.
“We have to use this in a really positive way, I’ve been part of teams that have won and part of teams that have lost. But when you lose like this, it has to sting and has to hurt, but something good has to come out of it.”
There was an extra layer to their latest humbling given Silverwood’s presence in blue and gold. He served as England’s bowling coach when they lifted the trophy four years ago and was handpicked to take over the top job from Trevor Bayliss soon after.
But Silverwood was sacked after a dire Ashes campaign in 2021-22 and now, rather than guiding his country through this tournament as he once expected, he has effectively sealed their departure from it.
A scrappy 43 from Ben Stokes was the best England could muster and that was promptly put in perspective as Pathum Nissanka (77 not out) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (65no) peeled off an effortless century stand in response.
In all England used just 33.2 overs in the first innings and 25.4 in the second, a damning indictment on all fronts.
Mott didn’t want to say if it was the end of an era for this England ODI team but he admitted it was a missed opportunity after winning the T20 World Cup last year.
“For us, every time you play a World Cup you know it could be your last … they don’t come along very often,” Mott added. “In the last 12 to 18 months we’ve done well in the T20 World Cup and we’ve bombed out here. We need to get better.
“A T20 World Cup is the next thing on the agenda (in June 2024), from an ICC events point of view. We need to make sure we do our best preparation and hopefully we put in a much better performance.”
The day started with the latest confusing selection from England, who dropped rising star Harry Brook and rookie seamer Gus Atkinson as they fielded a side comprised entirely of thirty-somethings for the first time ever in ODI cricket.
It proved a thoroughly misguided decision from a team long past its peak. With a dominant, table-topping India up next in Lucknow, it is hard to see what they do next.
Things began with a brief burst of positivity, openers Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow taming the new ball sufficiently to take 45 from the first 39 deliveries, with nine boundaries.
But the growing optimism was shattered by the introduction of old foe Angelo Mathews, called up as an injury replacement just a couple of days ago and embarking on his first ODI spell in three-and-a-half years.
It took the 36-year-old just three deliveries to get back in the groove, Malan caught behind for 28 chasing a cutter.
Mathews was involved again in the crucial dismissal of Joe Root, who had just three to his name when he chopped to point and set off for a single, turning on his heels once Bairstow dug his in at the non-striker’s end.
Mathews picked up and threw in one swift movement, leaving Mendis to obliterate the stumps as Root dived in vain.
The errors kept coming, Bairstow reaching 30 before a cross-batted swat at Kasun Rajitha plonked straight to mid-on. Lahiru Kumara had Buttler flashing to slip and Liam Livingstone lbw.
Stokes went on the attack, despite struggling for timing, but lost two more partners as Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes spoon-fed catches to backward point.
When Stokes dragged a pull down deep-midwicket’s throat, England’s hopes died.
David Willey, who hit England’s only six of the innings, also started gamely with the ball, getting rid of Kusal Perera and the dangerous Mendis but Samarawickrama and Nissanka knocked off the runs in a composed manner.
Nissanka sealed victory in style by slamming the expensive Rashid for a big six over long-on.