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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK

England - what went wrong?

Bowlers including the excellent Alan Mullally cannot be blamed

By BBC News Online's Nick Wrenn

A couple of weeks ago, you would have got good money betting that the two teams in the tournament's curtain-raiser would not make it to the next stage.

Sri Lanka were poor defending champions, never happy with English conditions and chilly windswept grounds.

England's exit is a calamity for the organisers.

It is the first time they have failed to make it to the second stage of a World Cup. But it was always on the cards after Zimbabwe's staggering victory over the tournament favourites South Africa - and India finished the job.

The grizzly clouds hanging over Edgbaston on Sunday reflected the mood in the home pavilion as a succession of batsmen trooped back from the middle and ecstatic Indian supporters threw a party in the stands.

[ image: It started so well against Sri Lanka]
It started so well against Sri Lanka
So much then for team England. While the Super Six battle it out for the trophy, Alec Stewart's men make an anticlimactic return to the hum-drum of the county circuit.

At the risk of being labelled whinging Poms, there are some hard luck stories to be told. Certainly South Africa did them no favours by capitulating to Zimbabwe.

And Sunday's slide to miserable defeat against India was triggered by Graham Thorpe's questionable lbw dismissal.

England finished with a record of won three, lost two. But it wasn't enough.

When the pressure was on, England failed, as captain Alec Stewart recognised. "You can only win games and we won three of them very well and very easily, but against South Africa we collapsed as a batting team and here we were not quite up to it."

Run rates tell the tale

Run rates were crucial, an indication of where it went wrong - the batting.

The middle order was only tested twice, and both times it failed dismally, blown away by South Africa and India.

[ image: Batting failed England]
Batting failed England
Andrew Flintoff's swashbuckling form for Lancashire could not be repeated at a higher level, while Adam Hollioake and Mark Ealham looked out of sorts.

There were problems too at the top. Nick Knight's sad loss of form in the pre-tournament warm-up games meant a last-minute change of plan, with Nasser Hussain opening instead.

England missed Knight's ability to give the innings the hurry-up from the start, while the other opener Stewart, despite a determined display against Sri Lanka, continued to struggle.

Frankly, the batsmen let down the bowlers who did little wrong and lots of things right, especially Darren Gough and Alan Mullally, who relished the seamers' wickets and the swinging white balls.

Back to the drawing board, then, while England fans are left to watch the best of the rest fight it out and think what might have been.

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