So close, yet so far was the story for England Cricket back in 2016, as they lost the final in the very last over, missing the chance to win the T20 World Cup for just the second time. Since then, England’s one day cricket has progressed massively, with the Cricket World Cup win, at Lords in 2019, the clear highlight. However, despite this progress, the T20 World Cup has proved one step too far again.

Coming into the tournament, captain Eoin Morgan was keen to emphasise his view that India were clear favourites for the tournament. However, after India’s shock exit in the Super 12s, Morgan’s men for many were now clear favourites, with an almost perfect record in the Super 12s, winning 4 of 5, with their only loss coming in the final game against South Africa, in which qualification for the semi-finals was all but secured already.

England’s victory over Australia in the Super 12s was a clear statement of intent. Behind India, Australia, along with England themselves had been seen by captain as the two strongest contenders for the trophy. Australia of course, would go on to win the tournament weeks later. It was not just the result, but the performance, and the ease with which England beat Australia, bowling them out for just 125, before comfortably knocking that total off in just 11.4 overs, with Jos Buttler’s unbeaten 71 the standout performance. It was Buttler who had emerged as England’s key man, and he followed up his performance vs Australia with a remarkable unbeaten century just two days later vs Sri Lanka. At this point, India’s inevitable early exit, and the win over Australia had resulted in many now viewing England as key favourites for the trophy, including England legend Kevin Pietersen tweeting “just hand England the trophy”. However, it was at this point that England’s problems would start to emerge…

An injury to key bowler Tymal Mills in England’s penultimate Super 12 game came as a big blow for England, ruling the left arm seamer out of the remainder of the tournament. England’s injury woes would only worsen in their final Super 12s game, as opening batsman Jason Roy, like Mills, was ruled out of the tournament’s conclusion through injury. Mills and Roy had been two key players for England so far at the tournament, and both would prove massive misses in England’s semi-final.

First place in England’s group ensured they would face second place in the opposite group, but facing New Zealand had always proved to be a very tough test, with England’s World Cup final win over the Kiwis in 2019 going right down to the wire. The loss of Jason Roy proved a blow early on, as Jonny Bairstow, promoted up the order in Roy’s place failed to provide any fireworks. Despite a slow start, 41 from Dawid Malan and an unbeaten 51 from Moeen Ali took England to 166-4 off their 20 overs. The score was competitive and defendable, but not what England would’ve aimed for. Originally, England’s bowling attack got off to a great start, picking up the early wickets of Guptill and captain Williams. However, it would be at the end of the innings where the loss of Mills would prove costly. Daryll Mitchell and Devon Conway steadied the ship following a poor start, and together brought New Zealand right back in to the game. Liam Livingstone, who so often proved England’s hero with the bat provided exactly what they needed with the ball, taking the wicket of Conway, and then Phillips soon after. Livingstone’s bowling had slowly clawed the game back in England’s favour, however, with his 4 overs now up, the responsibility was with the other bowlers, and the aftermath was nothing short of a nightmare for England. Jimmy Neesham’s 27 off 11 balls stunned England’s bowling attack. Whilst Rashid eventually took his wicket, the damage had been done. England just couldn’t find a way to slow him down, the importance of Mills showing then more than ever. Whilst the final was still a possibility, the momentum was all with New Zealand. The wicket of Mitchell was needed, but England could not find it. Chris Woakes had started the innings brilliantly, but when given the penultimate over of the game, his usual calmness had evaporated.

It would appear from England’s bowling they still suffered from the pressure. Like 2016, the same style of bowling was continuously used against Mitchell from Jordan and Woakes, and was consequently punished. Whether it be Jofra Archer, who had bowled England’s super over in 2019, or Tymal Mills, their go to man at the death this year, England dearly missed composure at the death.

Whilst Daryl Mitchell’s performance was nothing short of superb, question marks will be there as to how the usually so reliable captain Eoin Morgan managed his bowlers at the end. Like 2016, England’s T20 World Cup campaign will once again end up with a question of ‘What If’? Injuries and game management proved England’s downfall yet again. They had shown, in comfortably beating eventual winners Australia, that they were more than good enough, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.