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.
"This is a performance we just have to draw a line under and look forward to Manchester. We have to look into it as individuals, and as a side, it will pull things together if everyone raises it by five or ten per cent."
Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka, captain, disclosed that Kumar Sangakkara had played an important role in the build-up to the game.
The batsman briefly played for Durham in the County Championship earlier this season, including a four-day match on the Riverside ground.
"We got a lot of information from him because he knows the conditions quite well," said Mathews.
"The wicket was under covers for three or four days and he thought it would be sporty - and it was sporty. It didn't seam a lot, but it was hard to score."
Sangakkara also made a contribution on the pitch as he scored 40, but even he was overshadowed by Tillakaratne Dilshan as they put on 96 for the second wicket.
"It was an exceptional performance by Dilshan," Mathews said.
"He was a doubt before the game, but the physio and masseur worked really hard with him and it paid off. He's very aggressive and when he gets a start, the team is sitting pretty. He and Kumar Sangakkara set the platform.
"We were not really sure if 256 was good enough because the track was pretty challenging, but we had an unbelievable start."
Nuwan Kulasekara made the early breakthroughs as England's top order collapsed, then Sachithra Senanayake captured 4-13 in seven overs - his best ODI performance.
"All our bowlers bowled pretty well, but Senanayake was unplayable. In those conditions, he's a nightmare for batsmen. He came as our only spinner and was brilliant here. He bowled with a lot of confidence."