England reach their Netherland
After a winter of lows, England have reached their Netherland. Handed a generational thrashing in Australia, little was expected of the players selected to contest the World T20. Little is just what they delivered. The day after Ashley Giles had put forward his manifesto to become England's new head coach, the players he has coaxed and chivvied around the Caribbean and Bangladesh for the last six weeks put in a performance to suggest their bags had already been packed.
The mental baggage is likely to test the flight allowance. England have lost to Netherlands before, at the game's spiritual home, in the opening match of a major tournament. But defeat at the 2009 World T20 at least came down to the final ball. Here, the green shoots of a campaign that suggested tentative promise were mown down by a performance that resurrected and amplified the post-Ashes #pomnishambles jeers. Giles' chances of being ushered into power by the ECB as England's new head coach may have been damaged irrevocably.
Deprived of Joe Root and Ben Stokes by injury, not to mention the self-inflicted wound that is Kevin Pietersen's exclusion, England's batting during the tournament had provided surprising encouragement. They went into their final group game with an average and scoring rate higher than at any previous World T20; the lowest-ranked team left in the tournament exposed the lie to the damned statistics.
Alex Hales' century against Sri Lanka in a record run chase; Moeen Ali's delicate promise at No. 3; the return of Eoin Morgan to something like his best; Ravi Bopara's composure in the finishing role - England positives were taken away from them by a hot blast of Dutch courage. No one in the top seven managed to score at a run a ball, let alone stay at the crease for long, as Netherlands produced another diligent display and finally claimed the scalp they have craved ever since Peter Borren berated his team's poor form on the eve of the World T20.
England managed just four boundaries in their innings, one more than Netherlands amassed when dismissed for 39 - the lowest ever score in T20 internationals - little more than a week ago. There was no question about whose embarrassment should be more acute.
The pain for England's captain, Stuart Broad, must have been agonising. With his injured knee in need of lengthy rehabilitation, he elected to marshal his troops for one last time, perhaps hopeful of gleaning first-hand some more pointers as to England's way forward. There has been talk of learning more from defeat from victory; England can publish volumes after this. Broad hinted afterwards that the captaincy may not be in his possession for much longer.
"I'm not sure," he said of his future in the role. "We've got a few months and I've got an eight week rehab period with my knee to get right for Test cricket this summer. There are going to be decisions made right at the top over the next month or so and discussions will go on from there. I've thoroughly enjoyed doing the role over the past couple of years but today is extremely disappointing. It is a game we should have won."
Poor fielding was the most obvious of England's deficiencies in their previous World T20 games, the nadir being when they dropped four catches against Sri Lanka. Here, a couple more went down, to go with Jos Buttler's amateurish dislodging of the bails before he had the ball in his gloves, which butchered another run-out opportunity. There were also preventable byes conceded standing up to James Tredwell and, after a dreadful missed stumping in the South Africa game, it is clear Buttler's glovework still needs a fair bit of polish.
When holding forth about the future for England on Sunday, Giles talked about working hard on catching and ground fielding, citing AB de Villiers as the standard for his players to reach. Here their level of athleticism has been more on a par with Abe Simpson.
Netherlands scored 47 for 1 in the Powerplay and it could have been worse but for Broad's spell - he bowled at the beginning and end of the innings for his 3 for 24, showing himself to be a class above the rest of England's largely worthy attack. Jade Dernbach may already have bowled himself out of international orbit for some time, while Tim Bresnan has been worryingly inconsistent. Tredwell was tidy once again but his lack of wicket-taking threat is backed up by a T20 average of 57.83 after 15 games.
Somewhat embarrassingly, Ravi Bopara was the bowler to offer most control but England did tighten up, limiting the total to 133. That became the lowest score successfully defended at the tournament so far and such was the margin of Netherlands' victory, England were only kept off the bottom of the group by a net run rate margin of 0.09.
England have now won just three from their last 13 T20s, to go alongside other grim readouts from recent months. Their record chase against Sri Lanka looks like a sudden, final spike on the heart-rate monitor. Broad referred to "complacency" afterwards and the spectre of the Ashes that clings to England like evening dew.
"It sums up our winter as an England side. It was pretty similar to the batting displays we put in after we lost the Ashes in Australia," Broad said "A lack of commitment in the shots and a very disorganised chase.
"Before we knew it was a World Cup game with World Cup points. The bowling and the fielding was okay but we lacked hunger with the bat. No one got going, no one took responsibility and fair play to the Netherlands, they took their chance.
"It was always going to be a danger with us not being able to go through, but we said all the right things before the game and it was up to the players to deliver it. We have to take responsibility for that and it is hugely disappointing. There are no excuses from our side. We should have won with what was a relatively simple run chase but a shocking chase in the end."
England shoulders visibly slumped as each wicket fell, their tentative shot-making increasing the pressure with each passing over. The Netherlands strained every sinew for victory, while England hoped that someone might save them. Over the PA system, "London Calling" reverberated around the stadium, though the welcome waiting for England's players might be on the chilly side. After their experiences in Australia, perhaps this was a fitting end. Down and out in Alice and Chittagong.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here