England v SA, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong March 29, 2014

England pay for Dernbach's latest calamity cameo

There were other negatives with the ball and in the field but ultimately 26 runs in nine balls from Jade Dernbach swept England's World T20 hopes away into the Bay of Bengal

England are not out of the World T20 yet. Although that is only because the formality of one last commitment against Netherlands awaits. They lost one rain-affected match, another in superficially close circumstances and in between pulled off their greatest T20 chase. Few expected them to do much better, after the winter they have had.

But there will be regrets about how this game slithered away from them, as another wayward performance with the ball and in the field pushed the batting too far into the red. England had won the toss and, in light of the ever-present dew, seemingly half the battle. Instead, South Africa became the first team to defend a total in the late slot during Chittagong's second-round matches.

It began with Jos Buttler missing a simple stumping but ended most emphatically with the sight of Jade Dernbach, a glass cage of emotion at the best of times, being taken apart by AB de Villiers on his way to the fastest T20 fifty by a South African. As de Villiers unfurled his full range, including an eye-popping reverse sweep off Chris Jordan and a trampoline scoop over deep square leg against Tim Bresnan's attempted yorker, 55 runs cascaded from the last three overs and swept England's hopes away into the Bay of Bengal.

The mitigation for Dernbach usually goes as follows: he bowls in the Powerplays and at the end, he is bound to get some tap. Unfortunately, he no longer seems able to stop the tap running, with England constantly having to deal with an overflowing bath. This was worse than his 0 for 49 in Sydney in January, although the wet ball, which resulted in one chest-high beamer, clearly caused problems. Too much variation is usually the issue but here Dernbach was consistent, monotonously finding the wrong length.

De Villiers sometimes seems to bat like he is a savant, for whom normal limitations such as the pitch or the opponent don't seem to apply. This time, both were to his liking. Dernbach's third over, the 18th of South Africa's innings, did not take much transcending but he could perhaps console himself with the thought that de Villiers has spiked better bowlers - namely Dale Steyn, during an IPL mini-epic for Royal Challengers Bangalore two years ago - and will doubtless do so again.

Two fours, two sixes, two wides, a two, a single and a no-ball was the pared-back, stripped-down, acoustic version, minus the screeching feedback. Nine balls, 26 runs - a number that comfortably encompassed England's margin of defeat. The anti-Jade brigade was in full voice, with even the coach of Hong Kong (an Australian, it has to be said) chipping in. "Has Dernbach got an IPL gig? #deserves" tweeted Charlie Burke.

"It was an important over, with the short boundary," de Villiers said. "We hadn't had a lot of big overs, I felt it was time. The bounce of the ball was in my side, unfortunately for him his execution wasn't spot on. He's a really good bowler but with the wet ball and the short boundary, it was my night."

As ever with a Dernbach calamity cameo, there was a dropped catch, though Buttler did his best to atone for earlier errors with a full-length dive after David Miller had gloved a pull behind. For all that Dernbach does not seemed to have learned a great deal from his three years as an England player, there is a touching honesty about his performances and his pain; the doleful look in his eyes can be genuinely affecting. Dernbach wears his heart on his sleeve, somewhere among all the tattoos.

Sentimentality aside, though, an economy rate of 8.71 - joint worst of bowlers who have sent down 300 deliveries or more in T20 - is likely to be his epitaph. We may not see England's third-highest wicket-taker in the format in a solar red shirt again.

This match was not a highly buffed spectacle of uber cricket, de Villiers aside. Dernbach and Buttler had the messiest copybooks but there were plenty of other examples. Moeen Ali dropped de Villiers on to the rope for four; Wayne Parnell started with a leg-side wide and then fell over in his follow-through (although he more than made amends); the umpire Rod Tucker even denied South Africa the wicket of Alex Hales by overzealously no-balling Albie Morkel.

Perhaps this is what you get when you play cricket with a bar of soap in a sauna where the lights keep going out and the floor is in a state of permanently being mopped.

There may have been a lot of Kentucky Fried Cricket on offer but only de Villiers was in possession of the special recipe. The crowd had had their fill and the last knockings of England's run chase, completed some four hours after the game had begun, were overseen by plenty of empty seats. Hales had briefly threatened to rain down mayhem again but by the time Ravi Bopara was taking aim at the stands in a by-now-familiar exercise in futility, few were left to worry about getting hit.

"At the end of the day, T20 is an entertainment business," Stuart Broad said afterwards. It brought to mind a line spoken by Russell Crowe in Gladiator as he stands in the middle of a bloodied arena: "Are you not entertained?"

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here