The Daily Telegraph, 3rd February:

Of the World Cup, Downton says: “I think people will look at us now and say we’re a bit of a side to be reckoned with.”

Saturday 14th February: England lost to Australia by 111 runs.

Friday 20th February: England lost to New Zealand by eight wickets with 37.4 [sic]overs to spare.

The simple word ‘defeat’ seems barely adequate to describe Friday’s events in Wellington. This was the cricketing version of Dresden: annihilation on an industrial scale.

Although the players must account too for their shortcomings, the principal blame begins and ends at the feet of Peter Moores, the England selectors, and Paul Downton.

Four years of preparation. A butchered test schedule. A ruined Ashes series. And for what? Chaos. Confusion. Muddled thinking of catastrophic proportions.

As Michael Vaughan asked, in a piece already discussed on this site, why was a new captain appointed, in effect, only three weeks before the tournament?

Why did the management cling on to a bankrupt captain for nearly an entire year, squandering the team’s hard-won opportunity to prepare? Why was Gary Ballance thrown into the deep end at the pivotal number three position, to face demanding bowling, after only just returning from injury? And why only now did the coaches realise it might be useful to practise yorkers?

Vaughan also made another telling observation:

“Last week Broad defended England’s bowling at the death by saying South Africa only bowl yorkers 12 percent of the time in the final 10 overs. So what? I’m not interested in that. They are bogged down by stats and not thinking for themselves”.

Broad’s offhand but revealing remark tells you everything you need to know about Moores’s England and their naive disconnection from cricketing reality.

Moores is a deluded geek who thinks cricket matches are won and lost on the basis of mathematical formulae, not instinct and nous. He has confused his players – and addled their minds with over-complication – to the point of cricketing catatonia. They have been so stultified by his idiocy, and so denuded of confidence in their own natural games, that they can no longer perform at all.

Who knew this could happen? Who could have thought Moores wouldn’t be up to the job?

Oh yes, I remember now – he was rubbish the first time he did the job.

England have become an international laughing stock. The other World Cup nations must look at us, scratch their heads, and then split their sides.

Kevin Pietersen, England’s one genuine all-formats heavyweight: dropped for no explicable reason. Michael Carberry and Ben Stokes, who lit up the Big Bash: discarded. Alex Hales, who had such potential: thrown in at the deep end too late, and ruined. James Tredwell, by a margin England’s most economical ODI bowler: dropped.

And for the coach, when England could have hired virtually anyone in the world, they appointed the only person whom they’d already sacked once for incompetence.

Friday’s defeat was a year in the making. Once the ECB resolved to place ego before common sense, and their self-importance before the good of the team, they set the controls for a crash-course to disaster.

Defeat by Scotland tomorrow – and with it almost certain elimination from the tournament – would be the best thing to happen to English cricket for years.

We need something truly, apocalyptically, dreadful to happen – so the management no longer have a hiding place. An event which exposes the sheer moral bankruptcy of the Downton regime to a wider public, and shocks Colin Graves and Tom Harrison (the incoming ECB chair and chief executive) into real change.

If England scrape through to the quarter finals, they’ll fraudulently gloss over everything with a “good comeback by the lads – not too bad in the end”, and an opportunity will be lost.

So far, England have been at the wrong end of the two biggest mismatches of the tournament. For all the debates about reducing the number of teams for 2019, England have yet been outplayed by every associate nation, including Afghanistan, who put in a very creditable performance against Sri Lanka earlier today.

Thanks so much to all of you who commented on James’s piece from Friday. We appreciate every moment you’ve spared, and every word you’ve contributed. The sheer scale of your input reflects the frustration and dismay of the English cricketing public. You deserve better than this.

On a lighter note, our very own Tregaskis has a piece in this month’s Cricketer magazine. It’s the fascinating and macabre tale of Leslie Hylton, a West Indies test cricketer of the 1930s, and his unique fate. The article is in the March edition of the publication, out now.