Eoin Morgan, England`s captain in place of the injured Alastair Cook, was left bemused by the scale of their defeat in the second one-day international against Sri Lanka at the Riverside.
England were beaten by 157 runs after scoring only 99 – their fifth-lowest score in ODI cricket in reply to the tourists` 256-8.
At one stage, England were in danger of failing to beat their worst-ever innings of 86 against Australia in 2001, but Morgan`s defiant 40 avoided that humiliation.
He was the only batsman to cope with Sri Lanka`s attack, underlining the failings of his team-mates, with Ian Bell the next highest scorer with just 12 runs.
“It`s just about as bad as we can play – and certainly as bad as we can bat,” said Morgan. “It was one of the worst performances I`ve been a part of in an England shirt.
“I can`t really explain why we played that badly. The pitch was a little bit tacky and the ball nipped around a bit, but we`re good enough to negotiate those sort of skills.
“We would have been happy with the score they got, but we lacked partnerships throughout the whole innings and never seemed to get going. We just haven`t played well.”
Morgan maintains that England`s supporters will see a massive improvement in the third ODI at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“To be honest, I don`t think this is going to be a huge setback. I think it would have been a bigger setback if we had fallen 40 runs short and had substance through the whole innings, if we looked like we were going to win, but then not got there.