They failed the exam, losing for the fourth time in five matches of a woeful World Cup campaign to slump out of contention with one Pool A match still to play.
While there was visible despair for Eoin Morgan and his England squad, the Bangladesh lineup couldn't contain its jubilant celebration after an against-the-odds 15-run win in Adelaide on Monday that confirmed it among the top four teams in the group along with co-hosts New Zealand and Australia and 1996 champion Sri Lanka.
Mahmudullah posted Bangladesh's first World Cup century with a defiant 104, reviving the innings after his team slumped to 8-2 after being sent into bat. And Rubel Hossain took four wickets for 53 runs — including the two key wickets of Ian Bell (63) and Morgan (0) that helped turn the match in his team's favour and the last two to finish off England.
"Unbelievably disappointing ... within the group there was a lot of belief and expectation to go further than this," Morgan said. "Ultimately it has come down to the way we have performed and today was another example of us not performing.
"It is more surprise than anything else."
It was no great surprise to everyone. England endured a lot of upheaval leading into the tournament after leaving out controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen and then dropping test captain Alastair Cook from the one-day international squad. Nothing really went right for Morgan, starting with a 111-run loss to four-time champion Australia on the opening day of the tournament.
Set a modest victory target of 276 against Bangladesh, England was coasting at 121-2 halfway through its run chase before Bell's dismissal sparked a mini-collapse of three wickets for 11 runs.
Jos Buttler gave England some hope with 65 from 52 balls and Chris Woakes continued batting with the tailenders — surviving a dropped catch in the 48th over — to remain unbeaten on 42 at the non-striker's end when Stuart Broad (9) and Jimmy Anderson (0) were dismissed with the first and third balls of the 49th over.
"Definitely it is significant for us," Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said of his team's quarterfinal qualification. "It was a great win ... the boys are really happy and hope it is one of the best stepping stones for us and Bangladesh cricket will move forward from here."
Mahmudullah said Bangladesh fielded and bowled with a winning mentality, despite posting a total it considered well below a par score for the venue.
"For us this victory is really special," he said. "The way Rubel bowled those last two balls, was just something really special."
The downcast England squad now has to play tournament newcomer Afghanistan — which also has one win from five matches — before heading home to some heavy scrutiny of its campaign, starting with coach Peter Moores.
"Our expectations were higher than the way we performed," Morgan said. "No idea what will happen from here. Again, there will be an inquest over the next few weeks to see what went wrong."
On Tuesday, defending champion India will take on an Ireland squad growing in confidence after three wins in its first four matches and aiming for a spot in the knockout stage.
India has won its first four matches and secured a spot in the quarterfinals already.
Ireland has established a giant-killing reputation with wins at previous World Cups over Pakistan, Bangladesh and England, but captain William Porterfield said before Ireland won its opening match against the West Indies this year that such victories should no longer be regarded as major surprises.
"We've just got to keep all the momentum going," Porterfield said, "and keep taking things forward."