Had Ian Austin waddled in to bowl from the pavilion end at Lord's the ghosts of World Cups past could hardly have made their presence felt more.

Had Chris Lewis been bowled by a beauty, had Neil Smith vomited on the pitch, had Mike Gatting mis-hit his reverse-sweep or Peter Moores been misheard talking about data, the memories could hardly have seemed more vivid or relevant. We've been down this road before. England are in danger of missing their own party. Again.

Clearly such snapshot representations are reductive. Clearly they do not represent the thousands of subtle moments that go into defining the success of a campaign. Already, however, you wonder if Jason Roy's dropping of Mohammad Hafeez, or Moeen Ali's dismissal at Leeds are the moments that may come to sum up this World Cup from an England perspective. They may already have hit the iceberg.

But, while accepting that it is simplistic to sum up England's problems in one image, it is clear that this team do have a fundamental problem: they are, putting it harshly, flat track bullies. And there aren't many flat tracks around in this World Cup.

WATCH on Hotstar (India only) - Ben Stokes' innings

Yes, that is simplistic. Yes, it does not recognise England's improvement in recent times in adapting to conditions which help bowlers a little more. But, yes, it also has a kernel of truth.

England's problem, ironically, is in adapting to their own conditions. Over the last four years, they have become accustomed to blasting vast scores on the sort of perfect batting surfaces which make bowlers wish they had become plumbers. They have set numerous world records and their confidence has grown on the back of such feats.

But this has been an unusually wet summer in England. A really incredibly wet summer. And, as a result, groundsmen have simply not had the preparation time they would have liked to roll and bake their perfect batting pitches. So England have been confronted by surfaces where the ball may grip, or stop; where it may be slow and low; where it may seam or spin. Not much; just a tiny bit. But far more than has been the case in the last four years.

There is no conspiracy here; no case of the ICC intervening to ensure the surfaces provide a better balance between bat and ball. This is a simple case of plans derailed by poor weather. It's not unusual: ask anyone who's ever tried to plan a wedding in this soggy country. The organisers of The Hundred should take note. Two weeks of this weather at the start of their tournament and it will sink like Titanic.

As a result of these demanding surfaces, England's batsmen have been forced to work a little harder. They have been challenged both technically - some of the deliveries bowled by Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff at Lord's were magnificent - and temperamentally; required to work out how to rotate the strike and chase a total in circumstances where they could not just blast their way to success. And, at this stage, they have been found wanting. They managed only three singles in the first 10 overs here. It's nowhere near enough.

To be fair to England, there is no disgrace in losing to this Australia side. It contains several fine players and, in Starc, has an all-time great in this format. If England are knocked out of this World Cup in the group stages - and there is a real danger of that now - it is the fielding in the defeat against Pakistan and the self-inflicted errors in the run-chase against Sri Lanka they will rue more than being beaten here by what may well be a better side.

The decision to insert Australia was not wrong. The pitch was green, the covers had been on for much of the last couple of days, the atmosphere was heavy and damp. Sure, the scoreboard may make you think otherwise (Australia did not lose their first wicket until they had scored 123, after all), but it would have been brave to the point of foolhardy to bat first. It might also have been an acceptance that they have currently lost the confidence to chase.

So it wasn't the decision that was wrong. But the execution of that decision may well have been. Yes, England's seamers beat the bat often in those first few overs. And yes, England enjoyed little luck. Had a tough chance been held, had a leading edge gone to hand, had a ball taken the edge rather than beaten the bat, the result may have been different.

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But England would be deluding themselves if they simply cursed their luck. Had they pitched just a little fuller - as Australia's seamers did when presented with the same opportunity - perhaps some of those plays and misses would have resulted in dismissals. It was telling that, when England called for a review of a leg before decision against Aaron Finch, ball-tracking technology showed the ball pitched just a fraction short to win the appeal.

It was a point made by Behrendorff after the game. Admitting that Australia had learned from England's lengths, he said they made a "conscious effort to try to pitch the ball up and hit the stumps as much as we could early doors".

"They didn't hit the stumps," he said of the English attack. "Or the balls were going over the stumps too often. It's something we were assessing when they were bowling."

Morgan brushed such words aside, insisting his bowlers had bowled well and his side had been unlucky. But the stats suggest that, in those opening overs, 46 per-cent of the deliveries bowled by Australia were full and 27 per-cent of those bowled by England were. England were three down after 10 overs; Australia hadn't lost any wickets. You don't have to be a genius to work out the lessons there.

"They didn't hit the stumps. Or the balls were going over the stumps too often. It's something we were assessing when they were bowling."
Jason Behrendorff on England's bowling

The good news is that England's fate is still in their own hands. As long as it doesn't rain - and it's done very little but rain in England in recent weeks - England need only - 'only'! - win both their final two games to ensure their place in the semi-finals. The further good news is that there is a chance that Jason Roy may be fit to play in their penultimate group game, against India on Sunday, and Ben Stokes is starting to look somewhere close to his best with the bat. It's also far from impossible that one more win will suffice.

WATCH on Hotstar (US only) - Replay of England v Australia

But there's bad news, too. For a start, it would seem there is a chance that neither Stokes or Jofra Archer will be available. Archer reported a stiff side on the morning of this game and was obliged to undergo a fitness test before he was cleared to play. While he still managed a peak bowling speed of 92.89 mph, he looked stiff and, by his standards, a little less mobile in the field. He looks, for all the world, as if he needs a week of rest. Stokes, meanwhile, required treatment on his calf during his innings and seemed to be limping both while batting and in the field. Both he and Morgan insisted it was nothing to worry about - Morgan said it was cramp; Stokes "tightness" - but he probably has to be considered a doubt for those remaining group games.

Furthermore, England have now lost two ODIs in a row at home for the first time since 2015. All the confidence built up during the last few years - all the plans devised while playing on perfect batting tracks, all the belief developed from all those successful run chases - seems to be dissolving before their eyes. They have now lost three times while chasing in this tournament. The teams they now face - India and New Zealand - will be the highest-rated opposition (they came into this World Cup placed No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the ODI rankings) they have faced to date. And to think, a week ago people were worried there could be a glut of dead games at the end of the group stages.

This is a talented England side. They can still progress and they can still do what their predecessors have not. But the floodwater is around their ankles now and they are facing a test of their nerve, their unity and their skill. They have to find a way to adapt to these surfaces and recover some of that ebbing self-confidence. Time really is running out.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo