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After Wellington nightmare, Morgan's England face another moment of truth

There are a few contenders for the lowest moment in the history of England cricket. There have been defeats to the Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland. Global campaigns where it seemed they couldn't beat an egg. A home World Cup where, infamously, they lost before the theme song was released.

But if you want to find a single moment, a one-off game, where they didn't just plunge the depths, but went pot-holing in search of new ones, it is hard to look past February 20, 2015. Certainly, that's the view of Eoin Morgan, who reckons that defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the early stages of the previous World Cup was "rock bottom."

They weren't just defeated, he reckons, but "beaten off the park" in a manner that was "humiliating." Any pretense that England had a hope in that tournament - and there wasn't much, anyway - had been rubbished.

If Morgan's reflections on that game sound like an exaggeration, it may be worth a brief recap of what happened that afternoon in Wellington in February 2015. New Zealand took just 12.2 overs to chase down their target. Brendon McCullum smashed 77 in 25 balls while Steven Finn conceded 49 from his two overs. At one stage, England lost seven wickets for 19. The day-night match lasted, in its entirety, only 45.4 overs and was finished before there was a need to turn the lights on. It wasn't just a defeat; it was a massacre.

But sometimes rock bottom can prove a decent foundation. And, somewhere among the rubble of that World Cup campaign, Morgan came to some conclusions that were to prove the basis of England's resurgence over the next four years. And central to them was influence of that New Zealand side and their charismatic captain, McCullum.

Australia were a good side, of course. They nearly always are. They beat New Zealand in that World Cup final, after all. For many years, the default solution when England have struggled was to copy the Australian way. Remember all the keepers employed in the role of Adam Gilchrist? Or the legspinners asked to do an impression of Shane Warne? England aped their methods, employed their coaches and imitated their behaviour. Very often to no avail. So why not use them as a template?

The problem was that Australian side bristled and snarled. It seemed to need that energy. And while that worked for them, it didn't suit an England side containing Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell et al. Remember Joe Root trying to sledge the Sri Lanka team of 2014? It was Shih Tzu employed as a guard dog. It didn't work and it didn't suit him.

So that New Zealand template was a far better fit. They still played aggressive, exhilarating cricket. But they did it with a smile and without the snarling and sledging for which Australia had become known. And their supporters weren't just proud of their results, they were proud of the way they played, the men they were and the nation they represented. In short: McCullum's New Zealand side showed England that you could play brilliant, aggressive cricket - the sort of cricket that can inspire a side and a new generation of followers - without being prats.

"It was as close to rock bottom as I've been," Morgan said of the 2015 defeat on Tuesday. "Certainly as a captain and as a player: being beaten off the park like that is humiliating.

"It was a terrible day. One of those moments in my career that will stand out forever in my life as a day where I was devastated not only with the way we performed but also the way we carried ourselves.

"But the influence of New Zealand throughout that whole World Cup on all the other teams around the world was quite extreme. New Zealand proved a point that you can actually be really good humans and grow the game and play cricket in your own way and win at the same time. It was incredibly eye-opening for a lot of countries around the world. I thought that rubbed off on everybody at the World Cup."

It was an impression strengthened in the months that followed. McCullum led his New Zealand team to the UK at the start of the 2015 season where they contested an especially entertaining series of games against a reborn England. In the first ODI, England made 400 for the first time and, three days later, made their highest score (at the time) batting second: 365-9. And still lost. Both sides played brilliant, outrageous, attacking cricket in a series that was a fantastic advert for the game. The Test series - in which Ben Stokes was recalled to bat at No. 6 and told he was staying there - was hardly less entertaining. The 'McCullumisation' of English cricket was underway. So was its revival.

England reminded themselves of the values and priorities instilled in those days following the defeat against Australia. They held a team meeting - much more of a rarity these days than was once the case - where they spoke honestly about their failings in the tournament to date. The consensus seemed to be: we've strayed from the method that made us; we need to get back to it.

"We haven't needed those meetings often," Morgan told the BBC. "It's happened a couple of times before, but not under the pressure of a World Cup. But the Australia game was clearly very frustrating for everyone in the changing room because we hadn't played to our potential. It wasn't that we had lost a few games, it was that we hadn't played anywhere near to the standard of the last four years. That was the most frustrating thing.

"So we discussed being adaptable and trying to stick to our strengths. Trying to play our A game with the bat and the ball and not trying to change anything that has got us to being No. 1 or see us coming into the tournament as joint-favourites.

"The majority of the guys spoke in the meeting. I thought it was extremely productive. The guys came out of it feeling energised, motivated and eager to take on India. It was a good clear indicator to reset, accept where we are at the moment and give clear direction on what we need to do in order to get to the semi-finals. It was extremely pleasing not just to win, but player in the manner we did. It gives the guys a lot of confidence."

They may need that confidence on Wednesday. The aftermath could be even worse than Wellington. Not in performance, perhaps - both sides really would have to go some to recreate those margins - but in outcomes. The simple fact is, this could be England's final match of the tournament: lose and there is a good chance they will be eliminated. And they haven't come all this way - figuratively, at least - to go out at this stage.

They go into the match, at least, with many things the way they want them. With the weather improving all the time, this Durham pitch looks hard and full of runs; the England management reckon it is the best batting surface they have encountered so far. And while there are aches and pains throughout the squad, Jofra Archer and Jason Roy are both deemed to be fit. Mark Wood is sore but should be fit, leaving Moeen Ali again likely to miss out.

Much as England want to win - you could make a case to suggest this is England biggest ODI since 1992; it's actually their biggest since Sunday - Morgan is insisting his team stick to their mantra: concentrate on the process.

"Part of the meeting the other day was to emphasise the process we've been through," he said. "The hard work we've put in and also the hard work you have to put in in order to earn the right to win a game of cricket. It will be a matter of staying in the moment and trying to stick to that process. And not being lured into worrying about consequences."

There's a lot to like about this England ODI team. Over the last four years, they've played some bold and brilliant cricket and given us rich entertainment. They've also done everything they can to reengage with a public who seemed, in part, to have fallen out of love with their sport and their team. If the game was still broadcast free-to-air, you suspect many of them would be household names and fine role-models. Early elimination would not entirely erase that, but it would be disingenuous to pretend it would not damage their legacy and their chance to reach a new generation. Put simply, success sells a lot easier than failure. England owe New Zealand plenty, but they have to be ungrateful on Wednesday.