Champions Trophy 2017: England's bad day comes at worst possible time

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Highlights of Azhar & Fakhar's century opening stand

For all of the good limited-overs cricket that England have played over the past two years, we know they are capable of some pretty bad days.

It was just over two weeks ago that they found themselves 20-6 against South Africa. The odd collapse must be expected in this era of ultra-aggressive batting.

The Champions Trophy semi-final defeat by Pakistan, an eight-wicket hammering, was one of those bad days.

England simply did not know what was a good total on a used Cardiff surface. As a result, they chased an impossible dream and fell well short.

The problems for Eoin Morgan's men began the day before this match. They were clearly concerned about the pitch and talked about it a lot on Tuesday.

Each venue is only permitted to use three different pitches for the tournament, so that is why an old one was used for the semi-final. You wonder why that rule is in place, but that is not to make an excuse for England. They allowed it to get into their minds.

We were all surprised when Pakistan choose to bowl first - normal cricketing logic says you bat first in these circumstances, knowing that surface will get slower and harder to bat on.

However, the counter to that is fielding first means you don't have to worry about calculating what a good score might be. You simply have to chase what the opposition make. That is exactly what Pakistan did.

England were well placed at 128-2, but batted themselves into a hole.

Morgan maybe felt they were behind and played a rash shot; Ben Stokes wasn't able to play with freedom because wickets were falling around him. The hosts were completely squeezed by brilliant Pakistan bowling and fielding.

When England came out to field, they knew they had no other option than to bowl Pakistan out. They pushed and pushed, and that can lead to some loose bowling. In those situations, well-laid plans can quickly go out of the window, which is part of the reason why the game sped away.

Do England have a problem in crunch games?

Eoin Morgan has transformed England's one-day fortunes
Eoin Morgan has transformed England's one-day fortunes

And so England go out of a tournament they looked well placed to win. They had all bases covered: powerful batting and a bowling attack full of variety and wicket-takers - a team of match-winners. They will be bitterly disappointed.

Plenty of times before, England teams have had chances to end the hunt for a global 50-over trophy, a search that goes back to 1975. On this occasion, like the near-misses that have gone before, England failed to click when it mattered most.

Recently, England lost the 2013 Champions Trophy final and the 2016 World T20 final, two games they had the chance to win. Now this.

Are they developing a problem in crunch contests? I don't think so. Indeed, it is an achievement for them to be getting to these knockout matches, especially after the shambolic World Cup campaign two years ago.

They will now set their sights on the 2019 World Cup, where once again they will be the hosts.

Two years out, they look in good shape to do well in that tournament. Most of this squad will still be around and the England hierarchy will want Morgan to remain in the job, even if Joe Root is about to take over as Test captain. Some skippers want to be in charge of the whole lot, but Morgan has done a good job and is batting well.

Electric Pakistan deserve their praise

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Fakhar's fantastic catch dismisses Moeen

England will dissect this defeat, but huge credit must go to Pakistan, a team transformed from the one humbled by India in their first game.

Just as the nature of one-day cricket can see a very good side like England fall flat, so too can a team rise from nowhere to potential champions.

Their bowling was terrific, led by the pace of Hasan Ali, who is fully deserving of his place as the tournament's leading wicket-taker.

He is in your face and aggressive, backed up by the left-armers of Junaid Khan and the precocious leg-spin of 18-year-old Shadab Khan. Another left-armer, Rumman Raes, came in and performed excellently on his ODI debut, perhaps helped by the fact that England had never seen him before.

Pakistan are so mercurial, you often look to their fielding as a sign of where the team is at. In Cardiff, after some tough drops, they were electric, most notably Fakhar Zaman's catch to dismiss Moeen Ali - watch the video above - and substitute Ahmed Shehzad's run-out of Adil Rashid.

And, with the bat, the attacked the new ball, because that was the best time to look to score runs. In the end, they romped to victory.

They have picked themselves up after that loss to India, upset world number ones South Africa, eked past Sri Lanka in order to make the semi-finals and have now dumped out the hosts and favourites. They will go to Sunday's final full of confidence.

Most would probably like that final to be against India, but a clash against Bangladesh comes with a similar amount of historical meaning. Pakistan matches against either India or Bangladesh do not come too often outside of these events.

It's disappointing that England will not be in that final, but the occasion will not be harmed by their absence.