Sri Lanka v England, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Pallekele October 1, 2012

Broad left to rue 'average' days

England came as the defending champions but never played like it and, once again, it was problems in the Powerplay that led to their defeat

There probably was an England side that could have reached the World Twenty20 semi-finals, but it was not the one which lost three matches out of five and, by virtue of a 19-run defeat against Sri Lanka in Pallakele, crashed out of the competition at the Super Eights stage. Sri Lanka have surely never entered a semi-final with more vigour since their breakthrough win in the World Cup 16 years ago. England, by contrast, never really found the way.

The team that will never be tested (always an advantage) would have included Ian Bell alongside Alex Hales and Luke Wright at the top of the order, it would have married Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in the middle order - Pietersen thereby making spectators' hair stand on end in the crowd rather than making his own hair stand on end for the benefit of the TV studio - it would have recognised Samit Patel's ability against spin bowling at No. 6, and the young guns, Craig Kieswetter and Jonny Bairstow could have contested the keeping position at No 7. Jos Buttler would have been a stand-by batsman able to observe and learn his trade.

The imaginary team, or course, is just a concoction, another theory to go with countless others that flooded the social network sites as England crashed out of the tournament. The real England side, young and untutored in Asian conditions, competed and were found wanting. But they not as ordinary as many were suggesting.

Stuart Broad, a captain who has spoken throughout with a refreshing mix of positivity and candour, admitted: "We can look at missed opportunities but over the whole tournament we have not been good enough. What you get with young guys is some days absolute brilliance and other days a bit of averageness and I think as a team over the past three weeks we have shown a bit of both.

"The talent is certainly there. If you go onto Cricinfo these are the guys who are performing week in, week out in domestic cricket. It is very disappointing to go out because I know we have the firepower in that dressing room to go far."

England were pilloried for making three changes but that did not capture the reality. The inclusion of Patel and Jade Dernbach, in place of Tim Bresnan and Danny Briggs, who had played against New Zealand, was just a return to first principles.

"We changed the team for the New Zealand game and used Danny Briggs as an attacking option in the first six overs," Broad said. "Against Sri Lanka under lights it was unlikely a spinner was going to bowl in the first six with our seam attack. The pitch definitely changes under lights here. It gets quicker than in a day game."

While other sides continue to speak of the need to take advantage of the initial six-over Powerplay, get a flyer and then push the ball around against the spinners in the middle overs, England obsessed over statistics purporting to prove that retention of wickets won matches more often than not

They made one change: they dropped Kieswetter. It is hard to question his omission because he had become an increasingly troubled figure at the top of the order. "Kiesy has probably not had the three weeks he would like," Broad said. "I am sure he will bounce back but we had not had some very good starts in the last few weeks and with a must-win game we obviously wanted to rectify that."

It is fair, though, to wonder why England first picked Kieswetter at the top of the order and then seemed bent on entirely confusing him. While other sides continue to speak of the need to take advantage of the initial six-over Powerplay, get a flyer and then push the ball around against the spinners in the middle overs, England obsessed over statistics purporting to prove that retention of wickets won matches more often than not, especially when the likes of Morgan could explode in the later overs.

Kieswetter, who might imagine himself a potential match-winner as a pinch-hitter, suddenly found that his job description had entirely changed and he was expected to be more conventional, in which case Bell should have been a shoo-in. Unlike Wright, he was not mentally strong enough to cope with it.

It was quite a feat also for England to replace Kieswetter with the only batsman whose mental state was arguably even frailer, Ravi Bopara. He proved as much as he laboured six balls over a single before - however you want to dress it up - he missed a straight one. His England career will take some rescuing and only he can find the will to do it.

Bopara had tweeted two days earlier: "A whole day of FIFA I reckon. Nothing else to do in Kandy." Clearly the Temple of the Tooth, which tradition has it holds the tooth relic of the Buddha, did not appeal, the botanical gardens, with their wild orchid house, was equally untempting; and travelling deeper into the Hill Country was a no-no.

All the talk had been of how England would play Sri Lanka's spinners. Patel played them wonderfully well, although as Sri Lanka's captain, Mahela Jayawardene, pointed out, they were hindered to some extent by a heavier evening dew. Akhila Dananjaya, the 18-year-old legspinner, still found time to bowl Eoin Morgan on the reverse sweep.

The Dananjaya story, a youngster who was spotted by Jayawardene at a net session, and was thrust first into the Sri Lanka Premier League and then World Twenty20, is a curiosity in Sri Lanka; in England, where players are educated, processed, re-educated, re-processed, analysed, re-evaluated, re-analysed, discussed, tried and tested, it would be a miracle. It is the equivalent of somebody not quite interesting Leicestershire and then a few months later bowling Kumar Sangakkara. It is not about to happen.

"The way Samit Patel played the spin was very encouraging," Broad said. "He looked a class act out there. His big strength is how he plays the spin and hits over the off side. He made a few spinners go for a few runs tonight. That is a huge positive not just for the Twenty20 side but for England going forward. If we could have hung around and stayed with him, the last four or five overs can go for anything."

Neither could you entirely fault Broad's assessment of Lasith Malinga's decisive second over in which he removed Luke Wright, Jonny Bairstow (deceived by a slower ball, lest the England captain's description does not communicate this point) and Alex Hales, leaving England 18 for 3.

"Obviously those three wickets in the third over damaged us quite a bit," Broad said. "It is Twenty20 cricket, isn't it. Lasith got a short, wide one, caught point, he got one caught mid-off and he got a leg side lbw that was missing six stumps. But he bowled really well, he bowled full and straight and he showed the class that the IPL pays millions for. He obviously hurt us with those three wickets but they weren't jaffas were they? We just managed to get out to them."

And so, England's challenge ended. Now all that is left is the end game involving Kevin Pietersen. It is meant to be imminent. It probably is. But don't hold your breath.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on October 4, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    @JG2704 on (October 03 2012, 08:47 AM GMT) - loved the 2nd last sentence, I can almost hear the clatter of a million keystrokes strumming....

  • John on October 3, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    @John H Chambers on (October 03 2012, 05:08 AM GMT) Not sure how ECB have handled this or who said what at negotiations , but it wasn't ECB who sent texts to member(s) of the opposition was it?

  • John on October 3, 2012, 8:57 GMT

    @Meety on (October 02 2012, 23:41 PM GMT) Sorry your comms haven't got through. I certainly would say our squad was thereabouts the best we had. I'd have had Anderson above Dernbach. Maybe Woakes but I'd prefer him as a test bowler. One guy said Foster - good shout but no one knew how bad Craig would perform.I'm never totally confident of Eng chasing anything down but 180 is way too much esp in SC so for that part I have to blame our bowlers even before our batsmen start their inns. The one thing I blame our batsmen for above anything else is amount of dot balls. Not sure weather Flower is oblivious to this or whether our batsmen aren't following instructions

  • John on October 3, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira on (October 02 2012, 07:39 AM GMT) And how did flat track kings India do in the super 8s? Demolished by green toppers Australia and lucky not to lose against a side which has nothing to play for and at least we were always going to fail and weren't even supposed to qualify for the super 8s let alone win a match. What's that now for India in shorter formats this year - a tri nation and a 4 team tournament which you couldn't even qualify for a final in and then could not even qualify - in your own conditions - for the semis in this one. So yes Eng are mediocre but at least nothing more was expected of us

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    Well, if the ECB leaves out the best twenty over batsman in the world, what can be expected? Eh? "Our cricketers have let the country down this summer" writes pb10677. No. The ECB has.

  • Andrew on October 2, 2012, 23:41 GMT

    @JG2704 on (October 02 2012, 15:43 PM GMT) - I think any team that regularly gets 180+ in SL is going to win a lot of games. The SLPL, the scores were rarely that high. Amongst the many comments I have made on this match, only 2 have gone thru. I would say that this Eng squad was technically the best that Eng could/should of sent in THIS format with the obvious exception of KP. I would of selected Woakes as a bowler (let alone batsmen) ahead of all the pacers bar Finn. I would of selected Taylor ahead of most of the specialist batemsn at the Cup (T20 stats are better than quite a few). I wonder if Bell was selected just to spend time in the nets with the winter Indian tour in mind? (I mean why bring him & not play him????). With the benefit of hindsight - everyone has 20/20 vision (no deliberate pun intended)!

  • Steve on October 2, 2012, 22:11 GMT

    It was very noticable during the embers of the Sri Lanka v England game that the new found 'dressing room unity' doesn't seem to apply to Samit Patel and his remarkable one man fight? Even when he a Swann were blazing away there seemed to be no encouragement/appreciation for the England dugout? Maybe they've become to used to watching dazzling displays from KP and hate to see individual brilliance? Not that there was much of it on show over recent matches..... COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Steve on October 2, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    @PB10677.... Spot on! I couldn't agree more and a perfect observation. I watched all of the Ryder cup live ( i live in the USA) and what a result! The European side were amazing, punched above their weight and showed amazing spirit and determination! Now as for the England cricketers...... well you know!

  • John on October 2, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    @PcDadda on (October 02 2012, 02:29 AM GMT) Personally - while I recognise we have a problem vs spin , I feel in this particular tournament our bowlers have let us down more than our batsmen. If we were set 180ish totals in England I reckon we'd lose far more than we win

  • Safwan on October 2, 2012, 15:33 GMT

    Sri lanka were beaten by south africa in the group stages. so thier unbeaten run is only 3 matches and not 5.

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