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T20 World Cup 2024 – Eng vs Ind – Stagnant England suffers a collage that was in the post since Adelaide

Buttler insists England bow with pride, but three defeats to four major opponents disagree

T20 World Cup 2024 – Eng vs Ind – Stagnant England suffers a collage that was in the post since Adelaide

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From the heights of South Australia to the depths of South America. If England dominated in their T20 World Cup semi-final victory over India in Adelaide 19 months ago, they were outplayed, outplayed and outclassed by the same opponents in Guyana on Thursday. It was not just a defeat, it was a thrashing.

They were not good enough to restrict India with the ball, allowing them to reach a total that Jos Buttler considered to be 20-25 runs above par on a surface that was never likely to suit England, characterised by low bounce. With the bat, their only hope was for Buttler to score half the runs himself: when he swept the 19th ball of the chase behind, the game was all but over.

A series of different decisions will be highlighted: was it the right decision to bowl first on a pitch that would only get slower and lower as the day went on? Did England really need four different seam options in such extreme conditions? Why was Tom Hartley in the team for six weeks if not for this game, at this venue? England played the game they wanted, not the one they got.

But as Buttler acknowledged, this was not a semi-final defined by marginal decisions. It was much more than that, a complete thrashing by a team that had made great strides since the last World Cup on an opponent who had stagnated. A margin of 68 points reflects as much England’s shortcomings as India’s strengths.

“I don’t think (the toss) made the difference between the two teams,” Buttler said. “We thought long and hard about the selection… but I think India played a very good game of cricket: whoever the team was or whatever happened, they were going to be a tough team to beat. We had to be at our best if we were going to win the game and we didn’t do our best today.”

Axar Patel celebrates after getting the better of Jos Buttler ICC/Getty Images

This begs the question: why didn’t they do it? A pitch with low bounce and grip has always been more likely to suit India, but England have few excuses. The team they picked on Thursday played 157 T20Is in the Caribbean and made 436 IPL appearances, facing the same bowlers they faced in Guyana, but they were still found wanting.

With the ball, they were either too slow to assess the conditions or too stingy to respect them – unlike two years ago, when they won in Australia. It was a surface that rewarded seamers for hitting the ball into the box for a length of 6-8 yards and every time England strayed from it, they were punished, mainly by Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav.

Rohit played with the freedom that once characterized England batsmen, encouraged to attack without fear of failure. He took risks in the Powerplay and it paid off, with his 57 in 39 balls being the outstanding innings for either side. And it wasn’t so long ago that English batsmen were considered innovators, but today – as evidenced by his two extraordinary sixes over fine leg and extra cover respectively – Suryakumar is the global trendsetter.

England’s chase betrayed a team that seemed unable to adapt to what it had already seen. They were right to attack in the Powerplay while chasing an above-average total, but they lacked the ability to counter the Indian bowlers: Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav rarely left the stumps and thus disorganised the English midfield.

England expected this World Cup to be a “fight” and in the first two rounds they were not far from it: they were drawn against Antigua, Barbados and St Lucia and generally played on flat pitches with real bounce. They were almost eliminated by rain but were impressive in the Super Eight, overcoming the strong West Indies and beating the USA.

They were clinical against weaker opposition throughout the match, but the wider view is far less flattering: against full members, England have lost three out of four games, with defeats to Australia, South Africa and India. They may have reached the semi-finals – the only team to do so in the last four men’s T20 World Cups – but they never looked like the champions-elect.

“I think reaching a World Cup semi-final is an achievement,” insisted Buttler. “We obviously wanted to go all the way – that’s why we came here. We faced a lot of challenges and adversity throughout the tournament and we stuck together and played well enough to get to this point. But unfortunately, at this point, step, we have failed.

“I think back to Leeds when we all played: I think everyone improved. We played well, and not well enough. There are things we did behind the scenes – the way we prepared, the way we trained, the way we played intermittently – that were really good. There’s a lot of talent in the team and we played a top team today in these conditions.”

There was no shame in losing to India, who are the clear favorites heading into Saturday’s final in Barbados. But the manner of the defeat must prompt some introspection for England and their white-ball set-up as a whole. They were beaten not only by the better team, but also the bravest: India were rewarded for their attacking intent while England fell back meekly.

It was a strange day and a strange spectacle, prolonged by rain and India clearly advantaged by the predetermination of the venue of their semi-final. With only a handful of travelling fans, England’s rare boundaries were greeted by the silence of a half-capacity crowd: a fitting welcome to an elimination that had been looming for weeks.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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