England were dismissed for just 99, their lowest-ever score at Durham Emirates ICG, as they suffered a crushing 157-run defeat that squared the five-match ODI series at 1-1.
Chasing Sri Lanka’s total of 256, the hosts lost wickets at regular intervals as they used up fewer than 27 of their allotted 50 overs.
Morgan, who skippered the side in the absence of the injured Alastair Cook, was the only batsman to score more than 12, with England’s collapse bringing back harrowing memories of the unsuccessful winter tour of Australia.
“It’s just about as bad as we can play, and certainly as bad as we can bat,” said Morgan, whose score of 40 made him comfortably England’s leading performer. “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’ve played a lot of cricket here before, and it’s a pitch we would really have loved to play on, especially against a side like Sri Lanka.
“I thought we lacked a few wickets, but even still, we contained them to four or four-and-a-half an over, which was great. It was a great effort, and 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 struggled right the way through.”
England’s score was their third lowest in One-Day Internationals on home soil, with only 2001’s 86 against Australia at Old Trafford and 1975’s 93 against Australia at Headingley representing a poorer return.
There will have to be a marked improvement when Old Trafford hosts the third game of the series on Wednesday, but Morgan has counselled against making wholesale changes as England attempt to settle on a new-look side in the wake of this winter’s struggles Down Under.
Gary Ballance and Ian Bell scored half-centuries on Thursday as England won the opening ODI of the summer, with Joe Root also chipping in with 45, and while all three failed yesterday, Morgan would rather write the defeat off as a bad day at the office than use it as proof of more deep-rooted failings.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge setback,” he said. “I think it would’ve been a bigger setback if we had fallen 40 runs short and had substance through the whole innings, 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.
“You can come across these performances in T20 all the time, and you’ve got to wipe the slate clean. You have to look at little things in your own game, and then move on. But you can’t look into it too deeply because you’d be here for weeks.
“If you look at the quality and skill of the players that are playing, and that played in the last game, you’d be really happy with it.”
Nuwan Kulasekara and Sachithra Senanayake were the stars of Sri Lanka’s bowling display, sharing seven wickets for the collective concession of just 28 runs.
Earlier, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara shone with the bat, putting on 96 for the second wicket to establish a platform that enabled the tourists to cut loose in the latter stages of their innings.
Sangakkara played at Chester-le-Street earlier this month during a two-game spell for Durham that culminated in an effortless century against Sussex at Hove.
His time in the County Championship clearly helped prepare him for the test posed by English conditions, and he was able to pass on some invaluable tips about the state of the Durham Emirates ICG pitch, which was dulled by the recent rain.
“We got a lot of information from him,” said Sri Lanka captian Angelo Mathews. “He knows the conditions quite well.
“The wicket was under covers for three or four days. He thought it would be sporty, and it was. It didn’t seam a lot, but it was hard to score runs on. We were not really sure if 256 was good enough because the track was pretty challenging, but we had an unbelievable start.”