When history looks back on England’s 2014 World Twenty20 campaign the shoddy reverse against Holland is likely to be the abiding memory.
The result itself was dire, the margin – 45 runs – verging on the ridiculous. Ashley Giles and his chosen side may not have secured their place in the semi-finals of the competition but they are assured of a spot in any list of ‘great cricketing upsets’ for years to come.
But it would be crass to judge the team on that alone, for there was much more to pore over in the three preceeding games that actually settled England’s fate before the Dutch debacle even began. Some of it was good, more of it was bad, none of it should be ignored.
England started by posting a competitive 172 for six against New Zealand, a significantly better effort than many had anticipated but lacking an individual effort better than Moeen Ali’s 36.
Controversy followed as the Black Caps picked English pockets in the 5.2 overs possible before a thunderstorm engulfed the ground.
Dissatisfaction with Duckworth/Lewis in 20-over cricket is well known and justified, but both sides knew where they stood in the fifth over.
It came down to captain versus captain, Stuart Broad against Brendon McCullum, and the Englishman blinked first.
McCullum hit two sixes and a four to grab the win with both hands.
Broad was furious that lightning strikes around the ground had not forced an even earlier abandonment but, while the ICC’s health and safety brigade might well agree, that was something of a side issue in sporting terms. Sri Lanka were up next and, on paper, posed England’s toughest test of the tournament.
Naturally, they responded by collecting their only win in exhilarating circumstances.
Alex Hales bludgeoned his way to the first century of the competition and England’s first in the format, with 116 not out in just 64 balls. His stellar knock carried the side to their biggest T20 chase of 193 and invited talk of England as dark horses, ready to come up on the rails and repeat their surprise 2010 success.
But it also papered over cracks in the field, where they shelled several catches and Jos Buttler botched a stumping.
There were more spills to come in the next two games and, although England pointed to a slippery ball from the dewy conditions, none of their opponents struggled nearly as badly.
A must-win shootout with South Africa came 48 hours later and the Proteas emerged victorious. Buttler, doing his Test hopes little good with the gloves, fluffed a stumping that cost 37 runs, with Hashim Amla (56) and AB de Villiers (69no) oozing class in a mark of 196 for five.
Twenty six of those came in a nightmare over from Jade Dernbach, who was subsequently dropped – possibly permanently.
England again scored heavily in pursuit, reaching 193 after an unexpected late surge but Hales’ 38 was the top score as several batsmen failed to make the major score De Villiers had.
And so to Holland, an Associate nation who have no more international fixtures in the diary. It was the batting that proved the final insult. Lazy shots, timid tactics and two shambolic run-outs settled the matter in a miserable tally of 88 all out and sent England home with plenty to think about.