Rubel Hossain wheeled away into the Adelaide night sky, pursued with vigour by ecstatic team mates, coaching staff and cameramen eager to capture a slice of the moment. He had just splayed James Anderson’s stumps with a well-directed Yorker to confound England’s total humiliation at the 2015 ICC World Cup.
England went into that 49th over in pursuit of 16 more runs to reach their target of 276. Hossain took just three deliveries to clear out Stuart Broad and Anderson – he also completed a top to bottom clear out of English cricket that had started some 12 months earlier in the wake of a 5-0 Ashes defeat.
First, Andy Flower stepped down as coach. Then Kevin Pietersen was jettisoned. New managing director at the ECB, Paul Downton, appointed “the coach of his generation,” Peter Moores. A difficult summer ensued with a humiliating home series defeat by Sri Lanka, then defeat at Lord’s by India was rescued with a 3-1 series win in the Test arena.
On the ODI front, all was not well. It was apparent to everyone that England’s ODI formula was at least three years past its sell-by date. It had curdled and grown, morphed into something unrecognisable that was not fit for purpose.
Moores showed signs that he was at least aware of this by forcing captain Alastair Cook out of the side during a wretched seven game ODI series in Sri Lanka that was supposed to be preparation for the World Cup. The World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Sri Lanka was a woeful choice of destination.
Cook was like a rabbit in the headlights in ODIs. His final act was to get caught by Mahela Jayawardene in the slips, then only to stand around and query whether or not Jayawardene had actually pouched the catch cleanly. It was a desperate end.
But Cook, clearly, was not the entire problem. Eoin Morgan, captain of the revived England, led England in the World Cup where they were comfortably beaten by Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It was a pathetic tournament.
Australia beat them by 111 runs; New Zealand by eight wickets with 226 balls remaining in the game; Sri Lanka by nine wickets; Bangladesh by 15 runs.
The defeat by New Zealand was, later on, to be a turning point. This was compounded by the lesson learned against Sri Lanka. Having posted 309, England walked off the field looking like they were confident of winning. Passing 300 was a real achievement for this side. Sri Lanka cruised home one wicket down. It was a damning game for England. Hossain merely applied one more kick to a team that was on its way down.
The abject failure of the World Cup saw the back of the ineffable and ineffectual Downton. It took a Test series in the West Indies, however, to see the last of Moores. A 1-1 series draw was a poor return and Andrew Strauss, Downton’s replacement, pulled the trigger to put Moores, England and England’s suffering cricket fans, out of their misery.
The appointment of Paul Farbrace reaped instant rewards as England took on the Kiwis, who had so roundly thrashed them at the World Cup, at their own game and went all out attack. In that ODI series, England passed 400 for the first time and chased down 350 to win a game, their highest successful run chase. What a difference a month can make!
England had been freed from the shackles of incompetence and backward thinking and unleashed a game plan that accepted defeat as part of the sporting process in the pursuit of victory.
Giles Clarke is no longer chairman of the ECB, replaced by Colin Graves. Downton was dispatched and replaced by Strauss. Moores was sacked and replaced by Farbrace, initially, then Trevor Bayliss. Farbrace still serves as Bayliss’s assistant.
It was the top down changes that resulted in the real change we have seen in England’s white ball cricket. From World Cup embarrassments to World T20 finalists in the space of a year. The revolution was swift and clinically exorcised.
Not too many individual members of the team have changed since the 2015 World Cup. Ian Bell and Gary Ballance have gone, as has James Taylor, although not for cricketing reasons in his case. Eoin Morgan remains as captain and Moeen Ali has been shifted from opener to lower-middle order. Broad and Anderson have been dropped, too.
Jos Buttler has flourished since the World Cup. Jason Roy and Alex Hales have formed a formidable opening partnership.
The ingredients were there. It’s just that, for too long, England had the wrong chefs. The RFU, English rugby’s governing body, has followed suit – changes from the top down following a humiliating World Cup exit have reaped instant rewards. England’s football team, fresh from humiliation in the European Championships, are staring down the very same barrel. The inherent solipsism at the FA may prevent them from looking at the examples of others, though.
The experiences of the England cricket team should provide lessons to others. The turnaround was ruthless and brisk, both on and off the field. Perhaps they should thank Hossain for putting the final nail into their outdated coffin, though.
By Miles Reucroft