Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
World Cup 2023 (2)
WBBL 2023 (2)
HKG-WMN T20 (1)
Marsh Cup (1)
At some point it just makes you sad. Sad to watch. Sad to be around. Sad to go to press conferences, and ask sad questions of sad players who collectively bear the kinds of mopey expressions that rows of dogs in rescue shelters do.
"Oh no, this one's been treated really badly. Beaten by almost everyone they've met almost everywhere they've traveled? How awful.
"Only two points on the table after seven matches and a net run rate of negative 1.504? That's really ruining this metaphor. But buddy, that's some serious misery."
There were days when England crashing out of tournaments was at least comical. In their 2011 World Cup quarter-final, TM Dilshan apologised to Upul Tharanga for hitting a four, because Sri Lanka's openers only had so many of the 230-run target left to get, more than 10 overs to get them in, and Tharanga hadn't got to a hundred yet. But then that England had also done things like tie a 338-runs-a-side game against eventual champions India, earlier in the tournament, which had set up the punchline.
In Wellington in 2015, New Zealand chasing their 123 down inside 13 overs was an absurdist humour masterclass for the totality of that evisceration.
At the start of this campaign, there was schadenfreude about their unraveling in India too. They'd been so allergic to non-attacking words, their captain refused to call it a World Cup defence. (Would they have preferred "Smashing the ever-living daylights out of their title"?)
But many of these are the same guys who won in 2019, won in the shortest format in 2022, were just months ago talking about saving Test cricket, and now would struggle to save a funny meme on their phone, such is the overall level of incompetence and aversion to any shred of joy in this campaign.
The usual things to say at this stage is that a team looks defeated, appear to be husks of themselves, have nothing left to give, are mentally down. But to see a once-great team in this state somehow feels even worse as well as ridiculous, like a team of men in their mid 30s have all received calls from their parents to let them know they're being put up for adoption.
In reality, there was fight from them against Australia, and portions of the game which they genuinely won. David Warner has carved up this World Cup, in the ODI form of his life, but Chris Woakes bowled an excellent off-pace delivery to have him top edge one high into the air, not long after he'd also dismissed Travis Head, who'd hit 109 off 67 balls in his last match.
As late as the 35th over, when Ben Stokes had started to find his range, England still had six wickets and a hope. At the time, Adil Rashid's late boundaries did not seem totally futile either.
But seen in the context of this sewage avalanche of a campaign, even these moments of strength begin to feel like a wallowing in misery. Then their captain, Jos Buttler, comes out after the game and says things like:
"We only lost by 30."
"We threatened, but we're still not good enough."
"Yeah, frustrated. Yeah, disappointed. Yeah… all of the above."
There have not been stories of personal triumph either. England do not have a batter among the top dozen runscorers in this tournament, or a bowler in the top dozen wicket-takers.
They are now the man at the party who rocked up with a keg of beer and almost as much confidence, but through the course of the evening has unraveled and is weeping loudly for all to hear on the couch. They deserve the dignity of a taxi home, a friend holding them as they stagger through their door, some help getting out of the trousers in which they have lavishly peed themselves, and then a long, kind blackout. These, after all, are even now world champions.
But they have two more rounds of this World Cup left, and a Champions Trophy in 2025 to qualify for, though many of these players may not actually make it another two years in ODI cricket. Their morose expedition hits Pune next, for a match against Netherlands, who have players in their team who would be giddy if they got a county contract.
Surely England can find something of themselves there. But then every time they've thought they'd hit rock bottom, there was quicksand, a bog, a toilet hole that some campers had dug three days ago.