Captain Eoin Morgan will not entertain thoughts of a premature World Cup exit even though a nine-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka left England on the brink of disaster.
England suffered yet more pain at the Wellington Regional Stadium as centuries from Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara inspired a record pursuit of 309 for six.
Defeat leaves England needing to beat lower-ranked Bangladesh and Afghanistan in their remaining pool games and, even then, it might not be enough to keep them alive.
Morgan was not willing to consider the prospect, however, of an early flight home after his side’s third loss in four games at the tournament.
“It’s not even a thought at the moment,” he said. “Two games to win to get us into a quarter-final.”
Morgan claimed the loss was more difficult to stomach than the two thumpings dished out by Australia and New Zealand to start the tournament.
Morgan’s side never got going in both of those games, but after Joe Root’s career-best 121 had put England in the box seat at the half-way stage, the bowlers posed little threat as Thirimanne and Sangakkara embarked on an unbeaten 212-run stand to coast home with 16 balls in hand.
“It definitely is harder to take,” Morgan said. “When you don’t turn up for a race like those first two games it’s scratched. Today when we turn up and we’re beaten in the fashion we were is harder to take.”
Morgan bemoaned a bowling performance in which he claimed England simply bowled too many bad balls.
Thirimanne certainly agreed, after he suggested that batting against England’s bowlers had been “very easy”.
The opener was asked to compare England’s attack to Afghanistan, who almost pulled off a stunning win over Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, and said: “To be honest that day Afghanistan’s bowlers did really well but there was a little bit for the seamers. Today it was very easy for me to be honest.”
Morgan was at a loss to explain why his bowlers were so ineffective and will wait to see a statistical breakdown of England’s bowling performance in the next couple of days when they will take time off after flying to Adelaide. “No. I don’t have a theory yet,” he said.
“We bowled a lot of bad balls. Over the next couple of days we’ll get the HawkEye stuff back and the proof will be in that. My feeling is we bowled a lot of bad balls.”
The skipper denied that the England attack was too predictable in the light of Thirimanne’s observations, adding: “In terms of being too predictable you look at the best sides and they’re predictably good. When we’re firing we are predictably good.
“We’ve got two tall guys who are effective, they’ve got pace and bounce, and two guys who swing the ball and Moeen [Ali] who does his job. When we bowl well we put sides under pressure and create opportunities – today we didn’t.”
England were not helped by missing opportunities in the field most significantly when Root grassed a chance at first slip off Stuart Broad when Thirimanne was on just three. The Sri Lanka openers then put on a century stand to pave the way for a chase that easily broke the previous record at the ground – 254 for four achieved by South Africa against New Zealand three years ago.
After watching Morgan’s side slump to another heavy loss, former England spinner Graeme Swann called on the England and Wales Cricket Board to realise their approach is “out of date”, saying that there is a “stubbornness” about their selection policy and that they are “living in the past”. Writing on Twitter, he said: “A positive thing that can come of this world cup is that maybe the top brass will realise just how out of date our approach is.”
Swann also aired his views on BBC Radio 5 Live and feels the answer could lie with former Nottinghamshire team-mate Alex Hales.
“There’s a bit of stubbornness about the selection policy,” he added. “I like Gary Ballance, he’s a great lad, but I think even he’d admit that he shouldn’t be in the team at the minute, he’s in horrible form.
“We have a lad in Alex Hales, one of these new generation players who does go out and knock it about, he tries to smash everything for four and six.
“We need to get these young lads playing. We have too many people running it, too many people involved, too many plans and I think we’re just living in the past.”