In hindsight, the rot had started to set in long before the squad was announced. And once they landed in India, almost nothing went according to plan
The stands of the Narendra Modi Stadium have emptied out by the time Adil Rashid clears his front leg and skies a short ball through to Josh Inglis, finally confirming England's group-stage exit. This is the way England's World Cup ends: not with a bang but a whimper; their double world champions reduced to hollow men.
Nobody saw this coming. Even the handful of pundits who predicted England would fail to qualify for the semi-finals could not have imagined the extent of the implosion: a great team reduced to a week-long scrap for seventh place with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Netherlands, looking to avoid further humiliation.
"We're not defending anything," Jos Buttler, their captain, told journalists on the first floor of the Gujarat Cricket Association clubhouse in Ahmedabad, the day before England's opening-night defeat to New Zealand. His point was that they could not rely on past glories, but the words haunted him over the next five weeks.
Exactly a month later, standing on the outfield of the same venue, Buttler wore the beleaguered, dejected look that has become the image of his World Cup. "It's certainly a low point," he said. "As a captain, to be stood in this position, when you arrive in India with very high hopes, is incredibly tough… we haven't done ourselves justice."
How could a team with so many world-class players underperform so spectacularly? There is no single, simple answer beyond the most obvious. As Ben Stokes put it: "The problem is that we've been crap."
Every issue with England's build-up and every misstep since arriving in India was magnified when they started losing. The result was a total absence of the deep-rooted confidence that underpinned their success: it was as though their players were in a collective state of sleep paralysis, unable to address the nightmare unfolding in front of them.
The systemic causes
This team's decline happened in two ways: gradually, then suddenly. England have consistently struggled to compete in all three formats simultaneously, and no sooner had they lifted the World Cup at Lord's in 2019, ODIs became their lowest priority. The white-ball teams were geared towards back-to-back T20 World Cups, and when Rob Key took charge as managing director in May last year, he put Test cricket front and centre.
From champs to chumps: England won only one of their first five matches in this World Cup
Sajjad Hussain / © AFP/Getty Images
From champs to chumps: England won only one of their first five matches in this World Cup Sajjad Hussain / © AFP/Getty Images
After the pandemic, England's ODI schedule became a mess, a sporadic calendar of rearranged series that overlapped with Test tours. Conscious of player workloads and increasingly wary of a potential talent drain to franchise leagues, multi-format players hardly featured in 50-over cricket. In the 2020-21 and 2021-22 winters, England played a total of three ODIs away from home; between World Cups, they played only six ODIs in Asia.
The stability and continuity of selection that once underpinned England's 50-over success disappeared. Between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, England played 88 ODIs and used 34 players; 12 played in more than half of their games. In the 2019-23 cycle, they played just 42 ODIs and used 44 players, only eight of whom featured in at least half.
England's best one-day players hardly played 50-over cricket - and it became harder to say with any certainty that they were still England's best one-day players. The next generation had scant opportunity to press their case or gain 50-over experience themselves, with the domestic one-day competition played alongside the Hundred in August.
Jason Roy was one of the few who featured enough that his decline became evident, averaging 31.78 in that latter period even after hundreds in South Africa and Bangladesh earlier this year. He kept his place in the ODI set-up even after losing his spot for last year's T20 World Cup, but was finally dropped two and a half weeks before the World Cup.
"We knew we were guessing a little bit. We knew that with the selections, in terms of being able to compare different players," Matthew Mott said during the World Cup. Mott was appointed England's white-ball coach in May 2022, like Key, with the remit of keeping a good thing going and then leading a rebuild. He oversaw 18 ODIs before this year's World Cup squad was picked, and never with access to a full complement of players.
But the selection process itself was undermined by poor communication, a theme that emerged across England's World Cup. It was epitomised by national selector Luke Wright revealing five minutes into a Zoom press conference this September that the squad that had just been named to face New Zealand was also England's planned squad for the tournament itself.
Wright was, at best, the fourth-most influential voice in the selection meeting that took place at Trent Bridge, behind Buttler, Mott and Key, but found himself explaining decisions in his first formal media interaction in the role. Players were told they were going to the World Cup, only for Buttler and Mott to then stress publicly that the squad was provisional.
England lost control of the news cycle. Mott revealed in a newspaper interview before the side was picked that Buttler would sound Stokes out over reversing his one-day retirement, and that there was a "high chance" England would take a risk and include a half-fit Jofra Archer in the squad. Eventually Archer's medical reports forced him out of the provisional squad, but the surprising omission was that of Harry Brook.
Steve Harmison: Harry Brook and Sam Curran in focus
Steve Harmison: Harry Brook and Sam Curran in focus
Brook was privately devastated but responded with a century for Northern Superchargers, which left England wondering if they had made a mistake - not least when he continued his form in the T20I series against New Zealand. Before the final game of that series, Mott emphasised in an interview to Sky that the World Cup squad was subject to change, and hinted that Brook would be drafted in.
The overriding sense remained that everything would fall into place. Buttler, Mott and Key's success in the 2022 T20 World Cup seemed to have bred a hint of complacency.
"I made the mistake of thinking that it will be all right when we get there," Key reflected. "We made the assumption that, even without playing lots of 50-over cricket, this is such a good team that it will just slip into old habits and we'll be able to go out there and win." England's T20 World Cup build-up was similarly disjointed, but things came together in Australia after a seven-match tour to Pakistan; they hoped that their four-match series at home to New Zealand ahead of the ODI World Cup would serve a similar role.
Ostensibly, it was a success. After a heavy defeat in Cardiff, England recovered from 55 for 5 to win the second game, in Southampton, then clinched the series with two victories in London. Dawid Malan looked in great touch, Liam Livingstone slipped seamlessly back into 50-over cricket, and Reece Topley struck regularly with the new ball. Stokes, in his third game back, smashed 182 at The Oval, England's highest individual ODI score.
Yet result of that series masked some problems. Players were alarmed by the prospect of Brook and Archer being drafted in at short notice - not least after Archer appeared close to full fitness when he joined training at The Oval - and felt as if they were playing for their spots. "Until you're on the plane, you never really know if you're on it or not," said Malan, after sealing his place with a match-winning century at Lord's.
Jos Buttler went from being a World Cup winner to becoming virtually an onlooker during this tournament
Matthew Lewis / © ICC/Getty Images
Jos Buttler went from being a World Cup winner to becoming virtually an onlooker during this tournament Matthew Lewis / © ICC/Getty Images
Buttler was frustrated that England went away from their strengths in the first two ODIs against New Zealand, imploring their top order to bat with more aggression. Also, with Mark Wood missing all four matches with a bruised heel, and Rashid playing only once due to a calf niggle, England did not make a decision over how to balance their side until they arrived in India.
Wood's injury was sustained in the final days of the Ashes, an exhilarating, draining series that seven of the eventual World Cup 15 contested. How many of them were in peak physical and mental condition heading to India? In 2019, England peaked at the World Cup, then managed to cling onto a draw in the Ashes; four years later, the order was reversed.
Roy was axed after the final New Zealand ODI at Lord's, having missed all four games due to two unfortunately timed back spasms. The decision was reached so late in the cycle that Malan and Jonny Bairstow, England's new opening partnership, had only opened together twice before the World Cup. It was the right call, but one made too late.
England did not travel to India until 12 days after that Lord's match, then faced a gruelling 38-hour itinerary that involved transfers in Dubai and Mumbai before a late-night flight to Guwahati on a low-cost airline. It made for a needlessly hectic start to the trip.
They should have flown out much sooner, but the coaching staff - who had been short of work all summer due to a six-month gap between white-ball fixtures - had to oversee three ODIs against Ireland. "I'm not sure how we could have got out any earlier," Mott said. The consensus was that there was little merit in the World Cup squad facing relatively weak opposition. "It would have been three more games in conditions nothing like what we have [in India]," Key said.
That meant England fielded a second-string side against Ireland; in truth, that series only really happened because it featured in broadcast deals and host agreements with counties that had been signed long before the World Cup dates were finalised. But it meant that while Australia played in India and New Zealand toured Bangladesh, England used the weeks before the 2023 World Cup to hold auditions for the 2027 edition.
The World Cup squad was, in theory, resting at home. But they found themselves discussing central contract offers with their agents instead, in most cases weighing up whether to sign multi-year deals or leave their options open. Many of them stalled on a decision; Topley did not sign his one-year contract until four games into the tournament itself.
Who are the easybeats again? Afghanistan had won only one out of their 17 World Cup matches when they defeated England comprehensively in Delhi
Money Sharma / © AFP/Getty Images
Who are the easybeats again? Afghanistan had won only one out of their 17 World Cup matches when they defeated England comprehensively in Delhi Money Sharma / © AFP/Getty Images
By the time the squad met at Lord's for a Professional Cricketers' Association lunch on the day of their flight out, David Willey had discovered that he was the only player heading to India who did not have a contract. He threw himself into the World Cup - team-mates joked that he had launched "Dave's Tours" when he organised several treks in Dharamsala - but admitted that being the odd man out made things difficult.
No sooner had England landed in India than another problem emerged. When Stokes arrived in Guwahati, he had played three games in two months. He was still managing a chronic left-knee injury that required surgery and which meant he would play only as a specialist batter, making the side much harder to balance than in 2019.
Players were relieved when their first warm-up match, against India, was washed out, allowing them to return to the Radisson Blu Hotel early. Stokes used the time to train with Andy Mitchell, the strength and conditioning coach - but while he was doing lunges, he heard his hip go "pop". For 36 hours, he thought his World Cup was over before it had started. Scans cleared him of a serious injury but ruled him out of the start of the tournament.
When England walked out for the national anthems ahead of their opening game against New Zealand, players were shocked at just how empty the Narendra Modi Stadium was - even accounting for a 2pm start on a working day. "Opening World Cup match, [teams from the] previous final? I expected more people to be there," Joe Root said. Whether in the IPL or international cricket, they were used to full houses in India.
England then played like a team who had lost their grasp on the rhythms of 50-over cricket. Bairstow and Livingstone were both caught in the deep playing half-hearted attacking shots, while Malan, Buttler and Sam Curran edged behind defensively. Chris Woakes lacked control over his length and Wood was hammered by Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra. The XI had never played together before, and it showed.
Go deep or go hard: Jonny Bairstow and England coach Matthew Mott seemed to have differing ideas of how England should approach their game
Gareth Copley / © Getty Images
Go deep or go hard: Jonny Bairstow and England coach Matthew Mott seemed to have differing ideas of how England should approach their game Gareth Copley / © Getty Images
Players were spooked by how easy batting looked under floodlights for New Zealand, after England's grind during the day, and feared that the tournament would follow the pattern of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE: win the toss, win the game. Root, who top-scored with 77, said that conditions had changed "drastically" between innings; Livingstone said, "Hopefully Jos is going to get really good at the toss." Buttler won seven of the next eight - not that it did England much good.
By the time they arrived in Delhi a week later, things were looking up. They had bounced back with a 137-run win over Bangladesh in Dharamsala, set up by Malan's 140 and Root's second consecutive half-century, and their balance looked much better with Topley replacing Moeen Ali. Their upcoming opponents, Afghanistan, had started with two heavy defeats, taking their World Cup losing streak to 14 games across three editions. For all the mistakes England made in their build-up, this was a strong position.
But they were totally off the pace: Woakes sprayed the first ball of the match down the leg side, which Buttler fumbled, and Afghanistan were 5 for 0 without facing a legitimate delivery. Realising that the best time to bat was against the new ball, they raced to 106 for 0 after 14 overs; England dragged things back through their spinners, Livingstone and Rashid, but a late flourish allowed Afghanistan to reach 284.
England made decisions based on what they had seen in the first two games that Delhi had hosted in the World Cup, which had both been high-scoring. Buttler cited India's decision to pick Shardul Thakur over R Ashwin as a reason England backed Curran over Moeen: "We thought the wicket would play similarly, and maybe the dew would come in in the second half."
In fact, it was a traditional Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, which became slower and lower. England were deferential to Afghanistan's spinners, rarely sweeping or using their feet, and were out playing tentative shots. Key, who joined the touring party in Delhi, was alarmed. "I felt like we'd lost a little bit of what our identity was," he reflected. "Generally, England set the tone, bat or ball - and we weren't doing that." They were bowled out for 215, with Brook - who made 66 off 61 - the only batter to impose himself.
Mott sensed a team who "didn't really fire a shot" due to an absence of confidence. In the dressing room, he reminded them that they had come back from similar positions in previous World Cups, hoping to recreate the sense of knockout jeopardy that prompted their best performances in 2019 and 2022. With Buttler drained after four rounds of media, Stokes stood up to reinforce the message.
The following week in Mumbai was characterised by crossed wires. England were clearly jolted by a second defeat and needed to respond, but still had six games left and could afford to lose at least once more, if not twice. Mott spoke to the press and was, if anything, too honest in his appraisal: "You don't lose your ability overnight, but you can lose your confidence," he said. "Some of the players are really struggling for that rhythm of 50-over cricket."
Mott also emphasised the need to "dominate those first 15 overs" with both bat and ball but it did not seem to have landed. Barely 24 hours later, Bairstow suggested the best method in India was to "build, build, build" through the innings before a late launch: "Look at India: they don't go out and just go balls to the wall in the first ten." It not only ignored Rohit Sharma's lightning-fast starts but contradicted his coach.
One player privately expressed concerns that batters were playing for themselves, rather than for the team, with Stokes' impending return prompting a selection rethink. Mott rejected the possibility of "wholesale changes" against South Africa but England made three out of a possible four: Stokes, Willey and Gus Atkinson replaced the out-of-form Livingstone, Curran and Woakes, and Moeen was again omitted. That meant going away from their strengths of versatility and batting depth: they left four allrounders on the bench, with Willey at No. 7 beneath six specialist batters.
Where does Matthew Mott stand after England's horror World Cup?
Where does Matthew Mott stand after England's horror World Cup?
Their biggest error came at 1.33pm, when South Africa's stand-in captain Aiden Markram called incorrectly at the toss. "We're going to bowl first," Buttler said. "[It's] generally a good ground for chasing, so that's the reason behind it." In one sense, Buttler was right: chasing teams had won 75% of the ODIs that the Wankhede had hosted in the preceding decade. The only hitch? The sample size was four games. Data from the IPL supported Buttler's theory but was largely irrelevant, with the vast majority of IPL games played under floodlights from start to finish in the evening.
England either underestimated or did not consider the impact that the 38-degree heat and sapping humidity would have on their players. "It was probably hotter than we gave it credit for," Mott said. South Africa, who had just been beaten by Netherlands when chasing, were "shocked… we wanted to bat first purely because of the heat," said Heinrich Klaasen, who made a 61-ball century against an exhausted attack - which took so much out of him that he spent the second innings wearing a towel in the dressing room.
Mott and Buttler believed their "most aggressive option" was to bowl South Africa out cheaply but the challenge was exacerbated by an early injury to Topley, who fractured his index finger while fielding off his own bowling. Despite a game plan that relied on early wickets, Buttler felt he had no choice but to rattle through 6.1 overs from Root; by the time Topley's allocation was covered, Root had figures of 0 for 48 and South Africa were flying at 156 for 2 after 23 overs.
Topley returned, dosed up on painkillers, his fingers strapped together, and was needed at the death, when Wood was again going around the park. With Moeen, his vice-captain, running the drinks, Buttler desperately needed support from his senior players, but found himself running from behind the stumps to the top of his bowlers' run-ups and back again between balls, with Stokes and Root stationed on the rope. By the end of the innings, Mott likened the scene to "a war zone".
England's batters were still fried by the time they walked out to bat half an hour later: having espoused the virtues of taking the game deep, Bairstow hacked Lungi Ngidi to deep backward square leg and they were 68 for 6 in the 12th over. There was some irony in Wood's 70-run partnership with debutant Gus Atkinson for the ninth wicket: if England had taken the game deep, the dew that informed Buttler's decision to bowl first might have swung things their way.
Ben Stokes played the World Cup as a specialist batter and finished as the team's second-highest scorer, with 304 runs from six matches at 50.66, 100 runs behind their top-scorer, Dawid Malan
Dibyangshu Sarkar / © AFP/Getty Images
Ben Stokes played the World Cup as a specialist batter and finished as the team's second-highest scorer, with 304 runs from six matches at 50.66, 100 runs behind their top-scorer, Dawid Malan Dibyangshu Sarkar / © AFP/Getty Images
Key rued the dearth of relevant local experience among England's backroom staff. Twelve months earlier, they had hired two consultants, David Saker and Mike Hussey, for the T20 World Cup, in no small part because of their knowledge of Australian conditions. They made no such appointments in India, barring a sidearm thrower and a massage therapist who had worked with Kolkata Knight Riders.
"Someone who knows these conditions really well would say, 'It's hotter than the sun out there, make sure you have a bat,'" Key said. It should not have taken an Indian voice to realise that, but perhaps an outsider would have challenged the consensus. The camp had become insular, with players focused on their own problems rather than on the collective. The error at the toss became obvious with hindsight, but it was hardly discussed beforehand.
Topley's injury left England without their leading wicket-taker - and also exposed another failure of communication. Wright, Mott and Buttler had all described Archer as a "reserve", yet when scans confirmed Topley's fracture, Archer was on the way back home after barely a week in India, with Brydon Carse flown out as a replacement. The team suggested Archer had never been in realistic contention; it later emerged that he had reported elbow pain during a brief bowl in the Wankhede nets.
Out of control
When they arrived in Bengaluru to play Sri Lanka, England's title defence was in a death spiral. Having earmarked six wins as the magic number that would secure a semi-final berth, Buttler and Mott responded to England's third defeat as though they were out; in fact, New Zealand snuck through with four losses. Root volunteered to speak to the media to take the heat off Buttler, but inadvertently ended up questioning the relevance of the 50-over format as a whole.
His comments raised another question: how many players in England's squad saw this World Cup as the pinnacle of their careers? If 2019 was the culmination of a four-year journey and 2022 was their opportunity to cement the team's legacy, 2023 seemed like an afterthought. Eleven of the initial 15 players had played in - and won - at least one World Cup final before. Were they genuinely hungry enough to win another?
It took Chris Woakes a while to find rhythm and control in the World Cup; he finished as the team's second-highest wicket-taker, behind Adil Rashid, with ten from eight games at an average of close to 30
Gareth Copley / © Getty Images
It took Chris Woakes a while to find rhythm and control in the World Cup; he finished as the team's second-highest wicket-taker, behind Adil Rashid, with ten from eight games at an average of close to 30 Gareth Copley / © Getty Images
With central contracts finally agreed, Key felt he had no choice but to announce them mid-tournament, fearing that Stokes' decision to turn down a three-year deal would be leaked. Most players had not thought about contracts for weeks - offers were circulated on September 19 - and the only issue was one of optics. Key's analysis of the game's changing landscape was compelling, but an ageing, underperforming squad signing multi-year deals felt odd.
England shifted back to their initial balance - with a core of allrounders in the lower middle order - which meant leaving out their third highest run-scorer, Brook, while Livingstone, Moeen and Woakes were all recalled. It was a show of faith in the old guard; all 11 players were aged 30 or more. Buttler won the toss and chose to bat first against Sri Lanka, but England's batters - including Buttler himself - were bereft of any kind of rhythm or form.
They folded for 156, lurching between attack and defence. Angelo Mathews, the sort of bowler England used to queue up to take down, came into Sri Lanka's World Cup side at the age of 36; he took his first international wickets in three and a half years, and ran Root out as he tried desperately to get off strike. Moeen's dismissal summed England's batting up: he implored his team-mates to "go out with a bang", and then seemed stuck in two minds when cutting Mathews straight to point.
England were once the masters of cruising through the middle overs, maintaining a quick tempo while taking low-risk options: working the ball into gaps and milking singles out to boundary riders. At the 2019 World Cup, they averaged nearly 60 in overs 11 through 40, while scoring at just over six runs per over. In 2023, those numbers collapsed to 29 and 5.5 respectively: across the group stage, only Netherlands lost more wickets in the middle overs. "Everyone else has now caught up with the bat," Key reflected. "We've not evolved at all."
Buttler conceded he was in a state of shock as he sat in the press conference room on the first floor of the Chinnaswamy's pavilion after Sri Lanka cruised home. "I'll walk back in the dressing room after this and look at the players sat there, and think: 'How have we found ourselves in this position with the talent and the skill that's in the room?'" He played down the long-term, systemic factors in England's struggles: "I don't think there's any blame elsewhere apart from ourselves."
What lies ahead: England have qualified for the Champions Trophy, but they need to rebuild before that tournament
© ICC via Getty Images
What lies ahead: England have qualified for the Champions Trophy, but they need to rebuild before that tournament © ICC via Getty Images
With their net run rate in tatters, England were effectively out when they flew to Lucknow. India, the unbeaten hosts and favourites, were waiting for them - as was Eoin Morgan, Buttler's predecessor. Speaking on Sky Sports on the eve of the match, Morgan delivered a damning verdict: "I've never come across a sports team that has underperformed like this England team."
Morgan suggested there was "something else going on" beyond players losing form simultaneously, widely interpreted as a hint at a dressing-room rift. While some players were coping with England's situation better than others, the team played down that notion both publicly and privately, and some players were put out by what they saw as their ex-captain stirring the pot. Mott strenuously denied it, but Morgan's comments did him few favours.
And while England started well on the field, restricting India to 229 in front of a packed crowd, a row broke out off it. The ICC told touring English journalists that World Cup finishing positions would dictate qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy, a process that had been decided at a 2021 board meeting but never announced publicly.
England were blindsided, learning only when alerted via the media. Team manager Wayne Bentley informed Mott during the chase, while his side were in the process of collapsing to 129 all out; Buttler was briefed moments before the post-match presentation. The team blamed the turnover in personnel at the ECB and accepted that it was an oversight, but were privately baffled that the ICC had not announced the details before the World Cup.
Willey's announcement that he would retire at the end of the tournament dominated the build-up to a 33-run defeat to Australia back in Ahmedabad, which finally sealed England's fate. Woakes took four wickets as Australia managed 286 all out: characteristically, he grew into the tournament, bringing both England's preparation and the decision to leave him out against South Africa after Buttler had backed him publicly, into sharp focus.
In the chase, Malan ground out exactly 50 while Stokes finally contributed with 64, the day after announcing plans to get surgery on his knee after the tournament. But Buttler's miserable campaign with the bat was summed up by his innings of 1 off 7, caught at long-off trying to hit Adam Zampa down the ground for six. Only Netherlands averaged fewer runs per wicket against spin across the group stage.
The team of thirtysomethings played together for the third match in a row, and looked their age in the field. Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green ran them ragged: both hit six twos, while England's batters managed eight between them. Was age an excuse? David Warner was older than anyone in England's squad, at 37, yet showed his fitness patrolling the boundary.
The Australia defeat proved to be Livingstone's final appearance of the tournament: his six overs with the ball cost 42, and he made 2 off five balls to finish with an aggregate of 60 in six innings. Incredibly, he failed to hit a single six. Livingstone and Curran embodied England's attempts to revitalise the squad that won in 2019 but both were letdowns, despite all their IPL experience. Their struggles emphasised the contrast between the two white-ball formats.
The final week of the tournament was a vast improvement, particularly with the bat. Malan, Stokes and Woakes led the way in what proved to be a comfortable win over Netherlands in Pune; Stokes top-scored again in the victory over Pakistan in Kolkata, and Bairstow and Root mustered their first half-centuries in over a month. The results at least meant that England avoided the ignominy of missing out on the Champions Trophy, and eased the pressure that had built on Buttler and Mott.
This reminder of England's strength served to highlight their earlier shortcomings. They clearly benefited from playing an extended block of 50-over cricket together for the first time in years and finally found the rhythm of the format. Mott said the squad's "tenacity and resilience" had allowed them to finish as they did, and England's professionalism undermined the narrative that his authority had diminished.
But it was too late: the recriminations had started. Barely 12 hours after Woakes dismissed Haris Rauf to clinch England's third victory of the tournament, two new-look squads for December's tour to the Caribbean were announced, and Key sat in a small side room at the ITC Sonar Hotel in Kolkata shouldering much of the responsibility for England's struggles while speaking to the media. The show rolled on.
They came, they saw, they had little to cheer
Sam Panthaky / © AFP/Getty Images
They came, they saw, they had little to cheer Sam Panthaky / © AFP/Getty Images
One insider used a two-word phrase to sum England's campaign up: s**t happens. They had reached the semi-finals of five consecutive ICC events and won two of them; perhaps they were simply due a bad tournament. England have a wealth of white-ball talent, and unlike in 2015, they have a clear identity as a side. Their abject failure in India should be the catalyst for a refocus, rather than a revolution.
Yet the past six weeks will go down in history. It was a grisly tour, which quickly took on the characteristics of an Ashes whitewash. In most sports, a run of two or three World Cup defeats is more than enough to send a team home. Instead, England's players were stuck travelling around India waiting for their misery to end. As they checked into yet another hotel room in yet another city, their title defence went up in flames.
This dismal campaign should not detract from what came before, a truly great era in which England achieved the unprecedented status of reigning champions in both men's World Cups. But what goes up must come down: as if upholding the nation's finest sporting tradition, England followed groundbreaking success with a truly spectacular failure.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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