England have just lost their first T20 series since becoming world champions in the format as well as their first T20 white-wash since 2016, and they have done so to a team ranked ninth in the world.
Hosts Bangladesh completely battered England with bat, ball and in the field to secure a 3-0 win against the 2022 T20 Champions. The most recent of the agonising performances saw the Tigers win by 16 runs after reducing England to 142/6 from their 20 overs.
Bangladesh outshone their visitors at every possible opportunity and, without meaning to completely disregard the talent that is evidently booming in the Tigers camp, it does beg the question, what on earth went wrong in the England dressing room?
England’s white-ball sides are the current holders of two World Cups and they contain players who are highly sought after all over the world in franchise cricket, yet they have been completely undone by a side who have never made it past a group stage of a T20 World Cup.
In keeping with most hardened English sport fans, we often turn to excuses for what went wrong rather than accepting that we were actually just beaten by a far superior side - which in this instance we evidently were.
Najmul Hossain Shanto, the ultimate Player of the Series, scored 144 runs in total in his three matches and was undoubtedly far superior to any of England’s batters, no matter in which order they were put.
Yet England have three players ranked in the top 12 ICC T20 batters and the first Bangladeshi star doesn’t enter the picture until number 31 - and that’s not even Hossain Shanto. This is reflected across bowlers and all-rounders too (with the exception of Shakib Al Hasan who is the number one all-rounder in T20 in the world) and as such there should not be, on paper at least, any comprehensible reason that this England set-up should not be winning all their T20 matches.
However, in true and promised fashion, it’s now time to delve into the excuses that are cause for much deliberation and reflection. England have come to the end of one of their busiest ever winters which has seen them compete in eight series across all formats, as well as the mere task of participating in a World Cup.
While the red-ball team secured a historic 3-0 win over Pakistan in Pakistan as well as a thrilling 1-1 draw against New Zealand, the white-ball side played a seven match series against Pakistan; a three-match T20 series against Australia just before the World Cup as well as an exceptionally anti-climatic ODI series just a few days after the final, and ODI series again South Africa and eventually ending up in Bangladesh for an ODI and T20 series.
So, if there’s one thing this most recent T20 series showed us is that our boys are tired. We have come to expect fielding brilliance from the England squad, with Ben Stokes exhibiting miraculous catches on numerous occasions and phenomenal pace from England’s players stopping crucial boundaries at key match-turning moments.
However, if there’s one thing this series was, it certainly was not an exhibition of this apparent fielding finesse. Ben Duckett was guilty of two boundary-assisting misfields while both he and newbie Rehan Ahmed dropped two howlers. England’s performance in the field was similar to their first T20 match in which their fielding clangers made it seem they were actively self-sabotaging.
Similarly, Phil Salt, who had a superb series in Pakistan just a few months ago, which included a score of 88*, ended his disappointing time in Bangladesh with his briefest innings of all after advancing, missing, and being stumped on his first ball.
Jos Buttler moved his batting order around to spice things up ahead of the second T20 match but this made little difference to the outcome and it felt like with every swing of the bat, only more weariness and fatigue was being produced. Bangladesh wracked up solid scores in their three matches, but there’s no doubt that the figures could have been easily achievable if the batting line-up had any ounce of fire or intensity left to give.
England batting collapse is a phrase that now haunts cricket fans around the country, and with the rise of Bazball and a World Cup win in the bag, it had been hoped we would never need to utter this phrase again.
Yet here we are, once again lamenting the failures of one of the world’s best batting sides. But it somehow does seem unfair to suggest that they could have done much more after a winter which has barely allowed them time to breathe let alone regroup in time for a T20, ODI or Test match.
Today’s loss to Bangladesh marks the last time anyone will be in an England shirt until the one-off Test against Ireland in June and while we may lament the two-and-a-half month break from international cricket, one hopes that it will give the players as much needed repose ahead of what is arguably an even busier summer.