England are shot of confidence after a winter of 'total disintegration' ended in an ugly 45-run defeat to Netherlands in the World Twenty20, says Mike Atherton.
Stuart Broad's side were bowled out for a humiliating 88 in 17.4 overs as the Netherlands - bowled out for 39 by Sri Lanka earlier in the competition - took England's scalp for the second time following their victory at Lord's in 2009.
Former England skipper Atherton told Sky Sports that as well as the Dutch played, England's "unacceptable performance" was the result of a demoralising eight months which has included a 5-0 Ashes drubbing and only five victories in 18 ODI and T20 games in 2014.
"The Dutch have played some good cricket in this tournament with the exception of that one game against Sri Lanka, which was a shambles from their point of view," reflected Atherton.
"What England failed to do today was get a hold on the conditions and the change from a day-night game where the ball has skidded on under the lights with all of the dew, to the kind of conditions that we expected to see in Bangladesh - a slow pitch, a holding pitch with bowlers taking pace off the ball.
"England absolutely failed to adapt to that change in conditions. They were flattered by the conditions [against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa]; I was quite surprised by how competitive England were in those games but those weren't typical Asian, sub-continental conditions.
"This required a different sort of game with the ball stopping and spinners and England didn't adapt at all. Had England played Sri Lanka in these conditions you would have seen a similarly one-sided game because they don't have the ability or the nous to play that kind of cricket at the moment.
"You've got to give credit to the Netherlands. Peter Borren, as captain, had an outstanding day. He got his fieldsmen in the right place, the bowlers have done the right thing taking pace off the ball.
"Now of course England should chase down 133 - it's an unacceptable performance from England and an unacceptable run-chase - but the Netherlands played some good cricket.
"This is an England team totally shot of confidence. It has drained away slowly from the back-end of last summer when they got beaten heavily in the one-day games to a point where they are absolutely devoid of confidence now.
"This is bad. This winter we've seen total disintegration in the Ashes and a lack of improvement in the one-day games as well."
Skipper Broad likened England's batting displays to the calibre of those put in by the side after they'd lost the Ashes, pointing to a lack of commitment in the strokeplay and complacency.
But Atherton took issue with the latter point, saying: "I don't know about complacent. That word implies that a team has been playing well and just taken its' eye off the ball against a lesser team. I don't think you can make that charge against England. They are not playing well enough to be complacent.
"We've all played in teams where confidence has just drained away and it is hellish difficult to get it back when you get into that spiral of defeat that England have been in for a long time now, considering the winter that England have had.
"Confidence can come back but it doesn't come back as quickly as it drains away. It's amazing how quickly a team can disintegrate and fall apart. I'm sure they will build it back eventually but it remains to be seen whether that's with Ashley Giles, Peter Moores or whoever. It's a long road back."
With England due to hold interviews in the coming weeks for the position of coach, vacated by Andy Flower after the Ashes drubbing, current one-day coach Giles admitted the display was hugely disappointing but insisted the team had prepared properly.
Atherton agreed that there was little Giles could do once the players had stepped across the boundary.
"You have to let the players go out there and play," said Atherton. "A coach will do their best to prepare the players and then it's the players' game.
"You can watch football managers on the touchline - I've seen David Moyes do it in the technical area - badgering the players for 90 minutes, telling the players where to pass; it is hopeless.
"I went to Manchester United years and years ago and I was taken down to the dressing room about five minutes before a critical game against Arsenal and they were watching Coronation Street, one or two were playing cards, one or two were bouncing a basketball around.
"The director who had taken me down said 'what do you think about this?' I said 'where's the manager? Why isn't he in there giving them a last-minute team talk?' He said he'd take me up to see the boss.
"So up we went to Alex Ferguson's room and I said 'why aren't you in there?' He said 'we've done all of our preparation - we've done it throughout the week, I've got complete faith in these guys'.
"So at a certain point a coach has to leave the players to get on and play and if they don't there's not much the coach can do."
Watch highlights of England's dramatic defeat to Netherlands on tonight's World T20 Zone show, from 8pm on Sky Sports 2.