England's World Cup Campaign: An Optimist's Review
England's World Cup campaign has been awful? Don't believe a word of it!
Judging from much of the media chatter, you could be forgiven for thinking that England have just endured yet another horror show at an ICC event. Failure to secure a victory against a Test playing nation, and bowing out of the competition before the quarter-finals have been the headline grabbers.
However, after looking at the data, it can be deduced that England's World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand has actually been a rip-roaring success. Peter Moores enjoyed his most decorated World Cup as coach - admittedly it was his first, and likely only - while Eoin Morgan recaptured the ability to reach double figures with the bat.
Let's take a look at each of England's matches at the tournament, and why the Barmy Army can make the 10,000-mile trip home in high spirits.
England v Australia - England lost by 111 runs
England's match with Australia in Melbourne formed part of the curtain-raiser for the tournament and the Three Lions wasted little time in silencing the 84,000-plus crowd. Fearsome bowling from Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes saw them take Australia's first three wickets for a paltry 70 - a feat unmatched by any other at this year's World Cup. If not for Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell playing in a way that's just not cricket, England would have been chasing nowhere near 343.
James Taylor's 98 left the Poms with much to be encouraged about, and his unfair dismissal - a run-out that screamed of umpiring conspiracy - was evidence of the opposition being terrified England would chase down the further 112 needed in 8.1 overs with one wicket in hand. All in all, a solid start.
England v New Zealand - England lost by 8 wickets
Admittedly, this was hardly the most earth-shattering performance, but there was still plenty to glean from this relatively short display at the office. Winning the toss and batting proved an inspirational decision from Morgan, as England racketed to 100 in 25 overs: well on track for the par score of 250 - wait, it is still 1992 isn't it? From thereon Tim Southee sent the innings, well, south. But 123 was a total they should have been confident of defending.
It didn't go quite as planned, yet England could take solace from a killer spell by Chris Woakes, who snaffled two wickets in three overs, with a maiden over to boot. There is no substitute to restricting in-form batsmen when it comes to winning games, and it was Woakes again who delivered, sending Brendon McCullum's bails flying on only his 25th delivery. Unfortunately, by then he had already tonked 77. Can't win 'em all.
England v Scotland - England won by 119 runs
England charged to a frighteningly easy win over old foes Scotland. Moeen Ali spanked a Virender Sehwag-esque ton at the top of the order. A day which saw the doubters well and truly silenced. No further comment required.
England v Sri Lanka - England lost by 9 wickets
In a perfect batting display, a Joe Root-powered innings saw England saunter to 309 - superlative to any targets set by the trusty Windows 2000. Root's 121 was complimented by a late cameo from Jos Buttler, and the duo's knocks made up for an out-of-form Gary Ballance and a stodgy effort from Morgan.
If they hadn't spent quite so much time drooling over the soon-to-be-retired Kumar Sangakkara, England perhaps would have claimed a win here, but there were far more important matters at hand. Moeen recorded the second-most economical figures for a spinner who bowled their full 10 overs against Sri Lanka at this World Cup, leaking a mere 50 - only Daniel Vettori conceded fewer. Keeping their opponents batting until the 48th over ensured Sri Lanka were at the crease for longer than in their matches with the two tournament favourites, Australia and New Zealand. A commendable day.
England v Bangladesh - England lost by 15 runs
England narrowly avoided victory against Bangladesh in a contest which typified their tournament. Limiting the Tigers to 275 from their 50 overs - 13 fewer than they managed against the Kiwis - wouldn't have been possible without James Anderson's glorious bowling figures of two for 45. It was a score Moores' side would have been confident of chasing at the interval, with the newly-purchased Windows XP stating they would win providing they scored at least 114 runs from the first 23.1 overs, and lost a maximum of 2.6 wickets.
Once again, forces beyond their control prevented England from keeping their World Cup hopes alive but the Poms had much to cheer about in defeat. England's innings of 260 was a full 260 more than Australia accumulated against the same opponents - that match was, however, a washout.
Early wickets in England's chase meant Buttler had ample time to make an impact; his 65 from 52 gave his country much to be hopeful about in the future, playing with an aggression never previously seen in his game. Far from an ebbing low, in years to come this match will be viewed as a towering crest for English cricket.
England v Afghanistan - England won by 9 wickets
England culminated their finest World Cup showing for 23 years by pummeling Afghanistan - who will never set foot in a World Cup again if the ICC have their way. Exerting their dominance, England bundled the Afghans out for 111 - their lowest score of the tournament, before biffing off the revised Duckworth/Lewis score with a full seven overs remaining, sending the travelling fans home happily with two points.
Result: England OUT - 5th in Pool A
A mathematical irregularity resulted in two wins from six not being enough to qualify for the next phase of the tournament, something the ICC will undoubtedly try to correct before the 2019 World Cup, which will be held in England and Wales.
However, there are, as usual, many positives to take from England's curtailed campaign. Due to their early exit, the Test side now have ample time to prepare for their series against the West Indies starting on 13 April.
The month lay-off may come as a disappointment, but they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Which is, yet another positive.