England and its supporters might have hoped the bitter taste of the Champions Trophy could had turned into a fading memory, with the remaining T20 fixtures against New Zealand having the flavour of an amuse bouche before the Australian meat course.
But another final-over loss, again just five runs short, has put paid to that.
Even so soon after a major ICC event, there had seemed to be an air of forgiveness for the England batting collapse that once more sees the England trophy cabinet resemble the one at Arsenal, so devoid is it of any recent significant silverware (if you don’t count the ICC T20 trophy in 2010).
The side playing the Kiwis is more of a reserve side with some of the major players rested, though some have turned out at the Oval after appearing against India.
Ravi Bopara, who would have surely been Man of the Match in Sunday’s final had England won, definitely looked visibly tired from the recent hectic schedule, but still made 30 off 18 in a fruitless chase. James Tredwell and Jos Buttler were also in the squad, though the rest are a mixture even Bertie Bassett would have a hard time concocting.
It is encouraging to see Boyd Rankin, formerly of Ireland, also get a run-in and take a wicket. He is a bowler who is not afraid to hit the deck and another to join England’s 6ft-plus attack.
England has tremendous bench strength in all forms for its bowling and batting, which should see them through for the next five or six years.
Alex Hales can be dominant in the early overs (39 off 29 balls here) and is always one to take the attack to the bowler. He is one batsman who could help England chase a high score providing he doesn’t lose his wicket early, though he does seem to thrive when in England colours.
Luke Wright, a bearer of the sobriquets “one-day specialist” and “bits and pieces player” is another who hasn’t been utilised the way he should be, but seems to have the character and resiliency (plus two wickets and 52 in even time at the Oval) that makes it impossible to drop him.
But in my opinion there is one glaring omission from the county circuit and that is Graham Napier of Essex, a man who can and has turned matches.
I watched him recently annihilate Surrey with his bowling in a 40-over game – taking seven wickets for not many, including four in as many balls, all 90mph reverse-swinging yorkers. And don’t forget his 158 record score also made in the shorter format a couple of seasons ago.
Why he isn’t playing for England is something the Essex fans and cricket fans in general are definitely bemused about.
Though no matter how these pointless games against NZ turn out to be, one can’t help but think of the bright future English cricket has ahead if performances match talent and ability.
Australia certainly won’t be resting on their respective behinds when they start playing England in a few weeks. This is an England squad that has the capacity to dominate for years to come-in all formats.