It wasn't supposed to be like this for England. The hosts started preparing for the 2019 World Cup immediately after their disastrous outing in the last edition. The Eoin Morgan-led side changed their batting style completely and starting racking up scores of 400 and chasing targets around 350. For four years, there was a build up to this event. Failures in Tests were sometimes considered a sacrifice to improve the performance of ODI team.
But England's progress in this tournament has been a rude shock. Three losses, all while chasing, has put the hosts in a very precarious situation where they may end up not qualifying for the semi-finals. Four years of build-up and preparations may end up producing a big fat zero.
Not surprisingly, the English press, never one to be forgiving their team, have let it rip at their side's failures. As is usual, the headlines are far harsher than the main body of articles. But it's not just newspapers but experts also who seem dismayed by what is unfolding.
Leading broadcaster and former England captain Michael Vaughan expressed concern about the body language and thinking of the England side. "I saw the English team before the match today. They looked like a side that thought they could lose this match. This hasn't been seen from the English side for some time.... There needs to be an honest look at what went wrong. Morgan should talk honestly about what happened and point some fingers," Vaughan opined.
Another former captain Nasser Hussain was even more unsparing in his attack. Writing for the Daily Mail, Hussain said that Eoin Morgan's comment where he claimed his team bowled well in the early stages of Australia's innings. "It is not often I disagree with Eoin Morgan but he said after this defeat by Australia on Tuesday that England bowled well without luck at Lord's. I don't think they did. Yes, England went past the edge a few times after winning the toss in perfect bowling conditions but the reason for that was they were bowling short of a good length. How many of those balls would have hit the stumps? Not nearly enough."
The headline of an article in the same paper described Morgan as 'blinkered' for saying that his team's hopes are still high.
Another paper, The Guardian carried a more nuanced but still critical article talking about how the pre-determined plans of the English team have come to naught in this event. "England will be called brainless, feckless, flat-track and all the rest. But the key note of the last two defeats has been detachment, an inability to read the day, the game, the forces acting on them," the newspapers writer Barney Ronay wrote.
Scyld Berry, leading cricket writer for The Telegraph, castigated the hosts for failing to execute the basics of the game. If England don't qualify for the semis, the criticism is going to get even shriller. While England have never won the World Cup, the expectations have never been so high. A failure in this tournament would hurt more than any previous failures.