The ghosts of Australia in the recent past came back to haunt England in the Caribbean on Saturday in a batting collapse that all but ensured West Indies of a stunning series victory.
Though not the first time of late that England have been found wanting, former players Steve Harmison and David Gower sounded almost shocked in the commentary box.
“I didn’t see that (coming) at all,” Harmison said after England limped to 103 for eight in their second innings at stumps on day three in Grenada for an overall lead of 10 runs.
“The character that has been shown this series, I thought England had turned a little bit of a corner but that was Australia all over again.”
He was referring to the 4-0 Ashes drubbing over the southern summer although there were extenuating circumstances for that series result, not least a world class Australian bowling attack led by Pat Cummins.
There was also the added stress of a stifling COVID-19 bubble that must have taken a psychological toll as the weeks went on.
Things have been more relaxed in the Caribbean, on and off the field, where England were the better team in the first two drawn tests without being able to convert either into victory.
But the England batting went missing when it most mattered, brought to its knees by medium pacer Kyle Mayers, who snapped up 5-9 on Saturday.
“Pressure, that’s what the whole thing is,” said Harmison.
“England have really struggled with pressure in the red ball game in the recent past, tried to reset and unfortunately not one of the players could withstand the pressure of what this man (Joshua Da Silva) has done during the game.”
He was referring to the West Indies wicketkeeper, whose maiden test century helped his team to a 93-run first-innings lead that put pressure on England to make a big second-innings score.
Only opener Alex Lees, who struck a disciplined 31 from 132 balls, and Jonny Bairstow (22) reached double figures, leaving England batting coach Marcus Trescothick to say the players were “gutted” at what had just unfolded.
“I think the boys are fairly honest about what they have done and they will look at it and go, ‘We have made some poor decisions’,” he said.
“At the critical moments in the game we haven’t got it right. We can only put our hands up to that and look to come again.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)