Alastair Cook reflected an “a tough pill to swallow” after England came agonisingly close to Champions Trophy glory at Edgbaston.
A first global 50-over title looked to be heading England’s way when – in a final reduced to a Twenty20 contest following persistent rain – they left themselves needing 20 off 16 balls, with six wickets in hand, to defeat world champions India.
However, Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara, who had shared 64, then departed to successive Ishant Sharma deliveries and the hosts came up short on 124 for eight in pursuit of 130.
After seeing his side lose four wickets for three runs, including Jos Buttler for a golden duck, from a position of apparent strength, Cook was understandably downbeat when he addressed the media in his post-match press conference.
“Clearly from there you would back yourself to win more times than you would lose in that situation, but it shows how quickly games can change in Twenty20 when you lose a couple of wickets,” he reasoned.
“Towards the end, when it’s spinning as much as that, it’s very hard for the new guys coming in. They were always going to find it quite hard to hit those runs.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow at the moment. We had high hopes coming into today of achieving something very special.
“Credit to India. I thought they bowled very well on that wicket. Clearly, as a batting unit, we’ll be looking at ourselves going ‘what could we have done better?’”
Although disappointed by the ultimate outcome, England’s skipper took heart from his side’s overall tournament performance.
Qualification from a challenging group was followed by a thumping last-four victory over South Africa, while there were plenty of positives to be taken from England’s display in the final, not least Bopara’s all-round display.
“Obviously we had a good tournament to get to the final. There are six other teams which would have liked to have been in the situation we were in at the start of the day,” Cook added.
“I’m proud of the way the lads have fought from being under a fair bit of pressure in this tournament.
“Quite a lot of criticism and flak has been thrown our way and yet we got to the final and played some good cricket. We just couldn’t quite get over the line again.”
Elaborating on the efforts of Bopara, who returned 3-20 prior to his innings of 30 from 25 balls, Cook said: “I think he has handled himself really well in this tournament.”
The captain continued: “He’s batted to the situation all the time; he’s bowled pretty well and I thought he was just going to get us over the line today. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.”
Bopara arrived at the crease with England in some trouble at 46 for four.
That was due to Ian Bell being given out stumped off Ravindra Jadeja, a decision Cook disagreed with.
“I thought it was a poor decision,” explained Cook. “I only saw the replay a couple of times, but maybe he (third umpire Bruce Oxenford) saw a different angle than we saw.
“He has made the decision. It’s the umpire’s game and that’s that.”
Cook reserved high praise for the Edgbaston groundstaff, who worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure the final could take place.
The cut-off time for the fixture was also put back to 8:30pm by the International Cricket Council, ensuring an abandonment that would have seen the trophy shared was avoided.
“I think you’ve got to thank the groundsman and his staff for doing a fantastic job to get us out there, because at least we had the opportunity to win the game,” Cook concluded.
“If you’re sitting here having not played the game, you would always wonder what might have been.”