Mark Robinson, England women's coach, admitted the team felt they had been "playing catch-up" throughout the Women's World T20, due to rain affecting the early part of their tournament, as a rusty batting line-up failed to fire in the final against Australia. Despite an eight-wicket defeat ending their hopes of adding the 20-over title to the 50-over World Cup they lifted last year, Robinson was pleased with the squad's overall development.
England first warm-up game - also against Australia in Antigua - was abandoned, as was their opening Group-A fixture, against Sri Lanka in St Lucia. Two victories followed, chasing targets of 78 against Bangladesh and 86 South Africa, but the only time the whole of the top order got to bat came in the defeat to West Indies, when No. 7 Sophia Dunkley, in her third match, top-scored.
Although Amy Jones and Nat Sciver found some form with unbeaten fifties in the semi-final win over India, England came unstuck on a slow pitch at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium, dismissed by Australia for 105 in 19.4 overs. Tammy Beaumont, Player of the Tournament during last year's World Cup, managed just 54 runs at 10.80 in the Caribbean, while Lauren Winfield, England's No. 6, only batted twice, making six runs.
"There were a lot of girls who hadn't quite got into rhythm," Robinson told Sky Sports. "We felt we'd got Nats away the other night, and Amy… We felt all this tournament we've been playing catch-up, we started okay and then we hit the rains in the last warm-up game and then St Lucia.
"But that's sport, that happens - there was a Champions Trophy [in 2017] when the Aussie men only played one game and went home. It's just sometimes you've got to cope, and overall we've coped really, really well but it cost us today. There were just too many mistakes, from the umpires, from us, from the fielders, and it was quite a strange first half, but you're not going to win defending 105.
"There's some really disappointed, upset girls [in the dressing room]. We'd have liked to perform a bit better especially in that first half of the game. Look, 105 you're not going to win a game like that, especially when you're going to have to bowl with a wet ball on a wicket that's actually quite good. It did grip a bit but with all the dew it skidded on.
"We were just 30 runs too light, it was a shame because the Aussies were jittery, they made quite a lot of mistakes in the field but we just couldn't capitalise and were a bit careless. But it's not for lack of effort, lack of preparation, sometimes those things happen on the day."
One clear positive for England through the tournament was the performances of the new players to the set-up. Kirstie Gordon, one of three to debut during the group stage, finished as England's leading wicket-taker, while Dunkley and Linsey Smith also made encouraging starts to their international careers, having been called upon the strength of performances in the Kia Super League.
Robinson, who has given T20I caps to six players in 2018 - more than in the previous four years combined - said that increasing competition within the women's set-up was key to making further improvements.
"I think we've done it since we've come in, under Heather, we don't want things to stand still," he said. "We've got to get competition for places and we've got to keep moving forward. We thought we caught Australia cold in 2017 but they've moved their game on now, so we've got to keep doing that - even if you can't do it in the short term, you've got to be looking for the long term.
"People like Sophia Dunkley are going to have long futures, she's not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, she's an academy player but she's come in here and didn't impact today, but that innings against West Indies showed she has a chance.
"All the bowlers have done well, we hope that was a breakthrough for Amy Jones in T20 cricket, Kirstie Gordon's done really well on some helpful wickets. Sophie Ecclestone was outstanding tonight. Our bowling's made a move but we haven't had enough batters into form when we need it."
As for the success of the tournament as a whole, Robinson suggested improving the surfaces for women's cricket should be a priority - although he praised the groundsmen in St Lucia and Antigua for their efforts to produce good pitches in spite of heavy recent rainfall on the islands - and called for greater efforts to develop the playing pool in countries other than England and Australia, who have now contested three of the last four Women's World T20 finals.
"Probably some of the cricket hasn't been what you want due to the surfaces, but the people of the West Indies have got behind it, been absolutely fantastic," Robinson said. "You've probably helped grow women's cricket in the West Indies, due to how it's caught the imagination and the home team doing quite well. Surfaces weren't what we want but it wasn't through lack of effort, the groundsmen did their best but sometimes through rain or circumstance you can't do it. This game's on the way up but it does need the best surfaces to play on.
"It's going in the right direction. You always want more, you always want to be impatient. It needs the respect, from everybody, from the groundsmen. It's getting there, the amount of publicity, worldwide we need all the counties to support the girls. We need lots of good domestic leagues, infrastructure, we need the whole stage to be growing not just England-Australia."