At a time when the England and Wales Cricket Board is investing millions of pounds in the England team, employing physiologists, physiotherapists, psychologists, nutritionists, doctors, selectors, analysts and countless coaches in an attempt to turn the team into the No 1 side in the world, it was extremely disconcerting to see Paul Collingwood's side humiliated here yesterday for the second time in four days by opponents working on a fraction of the budget.
Each member of England's backroom staff is employed for a reason, but their presence will be viewed as a waste of time and money if the players continue to leave their brains in the dressing-room.
All round this was an awful performance, much worse than that in Wellington on Saturday. The batting was again dominated by questionable strokeplay and appalling running between the wickets. Catches were dropped and the bowlers completely lost their discipline, bowling bouncer after bouncer with one fielder on the leg-side boundary. England deserved nothing better than the 10-wicket stuffing they received.
This debacle – only the fourth 10-wicket defeat in 485 England one-day matches – hinged around what took place in the dressing-room during a lengthy mid-innings break for rain. When bad weather forced the teams to leave the field, England were in a strong position, on 85 for 2 after 15 overs. The side was batting with confidence, power and skill on an excellent pitch, with Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in sparkling form.
Only those allowed in the changing area know whether England switched off as the rain lashed down. In situations like these players often convince themselves the game will be abandoned. But it was only reduced to a 36-over match.
The next time an England player was seen on the field was when Cook and Pietersen returned to the middle two-and-a-quarter hours later. The pair, along with England's other batsmen, had prepared for the resumption in an indoor school. Nothing wrong with that some people might say, but while England were in a dingy, dusty hall New Zealand were energetically going through their drills on the ground. First impressions cannot always be trusted, but the contrasting methods of preparation suggested that one side was keener to play than the other.
The theory gained credence as Pietersen failed to regain the rhythm he had before the break. A maiden was played out and he then fell lbw trying to work a straight ball through the leg side. Collingwood ran himself out in embarrassing style attempting a ridiculous second run against the first ball he faced; Owais Shah pushed at a ball he should have been blocking and was bowled, and Ravi Bopara, in a state of panic, ran Cook out. Suddenly, England were on 121 for 6 and another game was gone.
"It was very poor, very disappointing," Collingwood said. "All the blokes are devastated by the performance. We didn't learn from the last game. When you've had two defeats like that confidence is going to be dented a little but what we've got to do is regroup, talk about it and be honest with ourselves."
England were never going to contain New Zealand's batsmen. The tourists had to take every chance that came their way and bowl the Black Caps out. James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom found the outside edge of Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder's bats respectively before each had reached double figures, but Phil Mustard and Shah grassed the chances.
What followed will have scarred England's bowlers. McCullum and Ryder hacked England's attack to every corner of this picturesque ground reaching the 165 (Duckworth/Lewis) they needed for victory in 18.1 overs. It was carnage.
England now have to win the three remaining games in Auckland, Napier and Christchurch to take the series. Changes must be made, performances like this must not be allowed to continue. Bopara looks sure to go. The confidence of the 22-year-old looks shot. He seemed destined to run either himself or Cook out, and he did. Then, for a second consecutive time, he carelessly slogged a bad ball to deep square-leg.
But the blame does not lie at the feet of Bopara, but on the batsmen above him. The problem for England is that they do not have any more specialist batsmen in their one-day touring party. Dimitri Mascarenhas and Luke Wright are wonderful strikers of the ball, but neither is a front-line batsman.
Of the bowlers, only Graeme Swann is vulnerable. The off-spinner has offered very little here to date and Kent's James Tredwell could be in line for his international debut in Auckland on Friday. However, it feels like it will take more than a couple of fresh faces to turn England's fortunes around.
Flying box grounds Botham
Sir Ian Botham refused to commentate on England's defeat against New Zealand because of his fears over the 100ft high television studio.
"I don't do heights," he said. "I'll go in helicopters and planes but they're meant to fly – commentary boxes aren't!"
After discovering the commentary position was mounted on top of scaffolding, the former England all-rounder took up a position in the pavilion and helped out with reports to Sky's studio in London.
His fellow commentator Nasser Hussain said the wind had made the box "a bit wobbly", while Michael Atherton said: "I do feel a little queasy."
New Zealand won toss
A N Cook run out 53
†P Mustard c Vettori b Martin 13
I R Bell c McCullum b Martin 0
K P Pietersen lbw b Mason 29
*P D Collingwood run out 1
O A Shah b Mason 0
R S Bopara c Ryder b Mills 23
G P Swann c McCullum b Vettori 1
S C J Broad c Mills b Vettori 23
R J Sidebottom run out 2
J M Anderson not out 2
Extras (b5 lb3 w3) 11
Total (35.1 overs) 158
Fall: 1-41 2-41 3-90 4-91 5-97 6-121 7-126 8-142 9-151
Bowling: Mills 6-0-45-1; Martin 8-0-44-2; Mason 7-0-29-2; Oram 7-1-12-0; Vettori 6.1-0-16-2; Styris 1-0-4-0.
New Zealand Innings
J D Ryder not out 79
†B B McCullum not out 80
Extras (lb4 w2) 6
Total 0 wkts (18.1 overs) 165
Did not bat: R L Taylor, S B Styris, P G Fulton, J D P Oram, *D L Vettori, K D Mills, M J Mason, C S Martin.
Bowling: Sidebottom 6-1-38-0; Anderson 4-0-43-0; Broad 3-0-32-0; Swann 2-0-27-0; Collingwood 3.1-0-21-0.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak), G Baxter (NZ).
Remaining fixtures: 15 Feb: Auckland. 19 Feb: Napier. 23 Feb: Christchurch.
ENGLAND'S OTHER 10-WICKET DEFEATS:
27 March 2001, Colombo: England 165-9 (GA Hick 46; WP Vaas 3-13); Sri Lanka 166-0 (33.5 overs, RS Kaluwitharana 102*, MS Atapattu 53*).
23 January 2003, Sydney, (day/night): England 117 (PD Collingwood 43; AJ Bichel 4-18, B Lee 3-29, BA Williams 2-22); Australia 118-0 (12.2 overs, AC Gilchrist 69*, ML Hayden 45*)
18 November 2003, Dambulla, (d/*): England 88 (PD Collingwood 31; WP Vaas 3-15, KA Fernando 2-13, KM Kulasekara 2-19); Sri Lanka 89 (13.5 overs, ST Jayasuriya 46*, RS Kaluwitharana 36*).Reuse content