Crushing end for woeful England
England's miserable World Cup campaign came to an inglorious and just end here when Michael Vaughan's side were crushed by South Africa yesterday.
The humiliating nine-wicket defeat, completed with 182 balls of South Africa's innings remaining, is nothing less than England deserved and the team were booed off the ground by their supporters after Graeme Smith struck the winning runs.
The cricket played by Vaughan's squad at the World Cup, which culminated in them being bowled out for a meagre 154 in the must-win game against South Africa, has been uninspired and haphazard, and they do not merit being anywhere near the finals of the game's premier tournament.
England's woeful cricket in the West Indies in the past six weeks, along with the 5-0 drubbing in the Ashes, must make make Duncan Fletcher's position as coach untenable.
Vaughan's future as England's one-day captain must be in serious doubt too. Vaughan is an excellent leader but his record in this form of the game is appalling. The 32-year-old has a chronic knee problem and he is unlikely to be playing one-day cricket in two, let alone four, years' time. This summer's one-day series against the West Indies offers a new coach and captain - Andrew Strauss or Paul Collingwood - the chance to start building a structure and team to make England competitive in Asia in 2011. It is an opportunity that needs to be taken. An awful lot of thought and work need to take place.
"It is a very sad day for English cricket," admitted Vaughan following England's elimination. "It is a horrible feeling to walk off the park in Barbados and be booed by a lot of English supporters, and rightfully so after the performance we put in. I've been a supporter in a football stadium and watched a poor performance and I understand why they've done it. This is a massive tournament and I expected us to turn up and produce something. We will have to accept all the criticism that comes our way.
"As an England team we've had a very disappointing six months. We got hammered in the ICC Champions Trophy, we went to the Ashes full of expectation and lost 5-0 then hung on to four victories at the end of the Commonwealth Bank Series and thought we had a chance here.
"I will not be retiring from one-day cricket. We need to work out who is the best captain and coach to lead England forward in one-day cricket, and if it is me and Fletch we have to come up with a better strategy"
To judge by yesterday's inept performance, few of the current squad should be part of any future plans. It was hard to work out which aspect of England's cricket was more depressing. South Africa bowled beautifully on a helpful pitch but England's batting once again lacked thought and skill. Defending 154 was always going to be an impossible task but the manner in which South Africa passed England's total was humiliating for the thousands of England fans that have travelled here.
Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers showed utter contempt for England's attack, smashing 85 in 9.5 overs. The loss of de Villiers failed to distract Smith whose unbeaten 89 came up off only 55 balls. This was a pretty impressive performance from a team that is supposed to choke at big occasions.
England's belief that they could defeat South Africa, the second best side in the world, was built around hope rather than form or facts but those aspirations disappeared when they lost 5-10 in 27 balls. Jacques Kallis instigated the collapse when he had Andrew Strauss caught at slip for 46, but it was Andrew Hall who ripped through England's middle-order, taking 4-3 in nine deliveries. And fittingly it was Hall who ended England's innings when he trapped James Anderson plumb in front with the final ball of his 10-over spell to give him career best figures of 5-18.
Hall bowled extremely well, swinging the ball sharply back in to the right- handed batsmen at a lively pace, but there were some pretty timid strokes played by England. The tentative pushes of Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff were beaten, Paul Nixon edged an away swinger and Sajid Mahmood was bowled of the inside edge.
England looked set to post a respectable total whilst Strauss and Collingwood added 58 runs together. Batting was never easy on a pitch offering pace and bounce but the pair looked comfortable once they had become used to the conditions. Without the partnership England's total would have been even more humiliating.
Much debate had been given as to what the captain who won the toss and it would be wrong to be too critical of Vaughan for opting to bat. It was a brave and positive decision, signalling England's intent to take control of the match.
Yet the batting that immediately followed was neither brave nor positive as Vaughan and Ian Bell scored nine runs in the opening seven overs. It was not solely a lack of boundaries that disturbed England followers, it was the lack of singles taken - Vaughan completed his first in the 12th over. England played only four scoring strokes in the initial 45 balls sent down by Shaun Pollock and Charl Langeveldt, so it came as little surprise when a frustrated Bell top-edged an attempted pull at Langeveldt and was caught at square-leg.
Vaughan struck a couple of pleasant boundaries and Strauss pulled Langeveldt for six before Andre Nel trapped the England captain in front. The wicket brought Kevin Pietersen to the crease, an entrance that was greeted by a chorus of cheers and boos from the teams respective fans.
Pietersen never looked settled during his brief stay, and it was Nel who dismissed England's pivotal batsman when he chipped a leading edge to mid-off. Smith gleefully dived forward to take a good low catch. The reaction of the South African side said it all. England's danger man was out and the game was theirs to win. They did in emphatic style.