Warning: Meltdown imminent
Two more clobberings in this World Cup of one-sided walkovers, two more teams teetering on the brink of melting down. It is hard to think of anything more Pakistan and England could have done wrong thus far, without taking the field wearing scuba gear and flippers, or batting with cucumbers, or jumping onto the umpire's back and shouting, 'Giddy up, horsey'.
There are unconfirmed rumours that the ICC is considering ejecting both sides from the tournament over suspicions they have been ambush marketing for a duck-farming company. Even their mild fight-backs at the end of their opening games only served to make their total subsidence in the second matches all the more galling.
Each applied their final coup de disgrace in New Zealand with admissions of total defeat. In Wellington on Friday, Stuart Broad, thoroughly demolished with the bat in a dreadful innings of scrambled feet and beaten mind, a swing-and-hope shadow of the outstanding innings-building lower-order batsman he was in his early years, ended England's brief but intense suffering in the field with the involuntary bolt gun of five wides ballooned over the batsman's head.
England losing at a sport it invented to a nation formerly under its colonial rule is nothing new. But in Wellington, they lost with so much time to spare that they could have invented a new sport, taught that to the New Zealanders, and lost to them at that as well.
At Hagley Oval on Saturday, in front of a sizable crowd of slightly bemused neutrals who had been told by reliable sources that two international teams would be playing against each other, Shahid Afridi, Pakistan's final theoretical hope of victory and actual hope of avoiding utter humiliation, was the penultimate wicket to fall.
The ageing talisman plopped a useless full-toss from Suleiman Benn unerringly and remarkably slowly to mid-wicket with a thwonk of remarkable mistiming. This followed two dropped catches, and a second consecutive wicket-less bowling performance, which, though tidy enough, lacked the devil and belief of his considerable best.
The final surrender followed minutes later as Sohail Khan white-flagged a catch straight up in the air, and the two teams which contested the final when the World Cup was last held in this part of the planet, were both left win-less, pointless and hopeless after two games of almost unceasing failure.
The excellence of their opposition was more instrumental in England's defeat than in Pakistan's. Tim Southee's seven wickets, all with pitched-up, stump-threatening or stump-clonking swingers, should be compulsory viewing in all schools around the world. England played with the dancing footwork of a lead watermelon and the confidence of that same lead watermelon in a Lightest Fruit competition, but Southee struck perfection.
McCullum was almost sadistically superb, under no pressure from either the match situation or England's bowling. New Zealand have thus far paraded their combination of collective strength and individual game-shaping brilliance. By the end, it was not even clear whether the two teams were playing the same sport.
Pakistan won in 1992 playing like 'cornered tigers'. They fielded like cornered tigers in Christchurch. In that they appeared not to have hands.
Both teams will now have to take a long, hard, icy bath with themselves as they contemplate how to escape from the deep, constricting bogs of confidence in which they currently lurk. Fortunately for them, the format of the tournament is relatively merciful - few equivalent competitions offer realistic prospects of advancement to teams who have been thrashed in their opening two matches.
West Indies showed how fortunes can swing in a short interlude - Fifteen overs either side of the innings break uplifted them from a ragged struggle and the possibility of a second defeat, to the near certainty of victory and a surging confidence. For much of their innings in Christchurch, it had been a classic battle of the resistible force against a movable object. The reckless imprecision of West Indies' batting was matched blooper for blooper by the almost spiritually incompetent Pakistan fielding.
Marlon Samuels encapsulated his career in two balls - the most perfect straight drive imaginable, struck on the up with majestic poise, followed by a leaden-footed one-handed flap outside off stump for no discernible purpose. He soon departed for a 38 that was simultaneously lucky, insufficient, important and careless.
In the end, Misbah's men proved the more easily shifted, and, amid decreasingly competent bowling, were hammered out of the game by West Indies' potent allrounders. This Pakistan is not well structured to chase 250. Chasing 311 was a task akin to asking a dolphin to climb a tree - unlikely, and only achievable in extraordinary circumstances.
No team is well structured to chase 311 from a starting point of 1 for 4. Between England's middle and lower order, and Pakistan's top order, 11 wickets were lost for 20 runs in 64 balls. On the plus side, Chris Woakes bowled a maiden, and Ahmed Shehzad's groin did a decent bit of fielding, but there is little else to build on.
Both teams may well still make the quarter-finals, but all their remaining opponents will scent their publicly-displayed vulnerabilities. If there is a repeat of the 1992 final, when Imran Khan's mercurial but intermittently brilliant Pakistan beat Graham Gooch's excellent England, then the world will have been given an unmistakable sign that the apocalypse is upon us.
- An impressive Hagley Oval crowd of almost 15,000 might not have seen a particularly good game either side of that vigorous late slugging by the West Indian middle order and a scything opening spell by Jerome Taylor, but they did at least witness incontrovertible statistical history with which to regale their friends, loved ones, future grandchildren, personal fitness trainers, accountants and/or priests. Pointless, but incontrovertible. For this was also the first ODI in the history of the universe (or, at least, the known universe) in which both No.6 batsmen have been out for exactly 50. And it was the first ODI in which a team's No.3 to No.8 all scored at least 30, as West Indies' did.
- More relevantly, Pakistan became the first team in ODI history to lose their first four wickets for fewer than four runs - their record-smashingly-useless score of 1 for 4 could prove hard to beat in the annals of ODI incompetence. The previous low-water-mark of top-order unproductivity was Canada's 4 for 4 against Zimbabwe at Port-of-Spain, a collapse aided by both openers being run out in the first three overs. Unsurpisingly, the one run 'amassed' by Jamshed, Shehzad, Younis and Haris also set a record for the fewest runs collectively scored by a top four in an ODI.
- The Wellington game was only the fifth time that all four openers had been out bowled in an ODI. The only previous instance in a World Cup also involved New Zealand, in their rain-reduced win over Zimbabwe in Napier. Martin Crowe scored 74 off 43 balls in that game. At the time, in the fifth World Cup played, it was, at a strike-rate of 172, the second fastest 50-plus score by a New Zealander in ODIs, and the second-fastest World Cup innings of at least 50. It is now, respectively, 19th and 18th on those lists, testament both to the accelerated pace of batting, and how brilliant Crowe's innings must have been in its time. McCullum shot to the top of both lists on Friday - overtaking his own records in both cases.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer