The rollercoaster of England’s cricket journey in India has hit a new low. After a string of defeats, it seemed they were plunging further into a bottomless pit. In a supposedly batting-friendly venue against a battered and bruised Sri Lankan side, England’s decision to bat first backfired spectacularly. They were dismissed for a paltry 156, their lowest total ever on this ground in a one-day international. If this was supposed to be the turning point for England, the bungee rope snapped, and they plummeted even further. With India looming on the horizon, they might not have hit rock bottom just yet.
England’s answer to their troubles? Make more changes. After reshuffling the deck against South Africa, they did it again against Sri Lanka, with the notion of reinforcing their batting. For the first time ever in ODIs, and the first time in over a century in any format, England fielded a team without any players younger than 30. The logic was simple: it’s not the time for on-the-job training. Or maybe, it’s a way to protect the players who still have another World Cup in them from further damage.
But the truth is, this isn’t just a case of being bad; this is about being broken. There’s no straightforward sporting explanation for their downfall. It’s bewildering how a must-win game, starting at 45 without loss, could nosedive to 85 for five and beyond. The senior players, battle-tested and aware of the stakes, somehow surrendered without a fight. It’s not to undermine Sri Lanka, but it certainly helps when your opponents are willingly beating themselves.
The heroes of Lord’s in 2019 are a fading memory. England’s world champions are no more. Their World Cup journey has turned into an ordeal, prolonged and seemingly pointless. With just one win from five games, their chances of progressing to the semis are slim and dependent on mathematical miracles. It’s almost cruel to keep this battered team parading around India for another couple of weeks.
The game against Sri Lanka had a promising start, with Reece Topley and Jonny Bairstow smashing boundaries. But the optimism lasted only till the third ball of the sixth over when Dawid Malan got out, starting a dreadful chain reaction. The review that Sri Lanka rejected could have found Bairstow out with his first ball. Ben Stokes, on multiple occasions, managed to avoid getting out early, but he couldn’t rescue England from a sinking ship. They lost all 10 wickets for 111 runs, many of them truly dismal. England’s World Cup journey hit rock bottom.