Perhaps England's winter was always destined to end like this. After a pitiful collapse in the Ashes series in Australia and a motley collection of ODI defeats came the greatest ignominy of all: a failed challenge in World Twenty20 completed with an overwhelming defeat against Netherlands.

Make no mistake, this was a defeat entirely lacking in energy, nous and mental strength. England make a habit of losing to Netherlands, but surely none have been as bad as this.

Eighty-eight all out with only four boundaries and a 45-run defeat, monumental by Twenty20 terms, a shameful margin against an Associate nation which had to do little out of the ordinary to win the match and which now faces a lengthy absence from international cricket after failing to qualify for next year's 50-over World Cup in Australia.

And all ended with a ridiculous run out which would not have looked out of place in the lowest levels of village cricket.

For Ashley Giles, this truly dreadful defeat must have been more difficult to bear than for most. It is possible to advance a persuasive case that England need to plan for the long-term, that there will be blips along the way, and that Giles' temporary role as England's coach has never been about lodging a job application.

But can that still be insisted after the winter ended with one of the most humiliating episodes in their history?

What do we make now of all this talk of England playing fearless cricket? What does it say about the mental strength of England sides that when presented by sides that logic suggests they should beat with ease they so often seem to freeze on the job? How much more investment does English cricket need to ensure such unacceptable displays never happen again?

Confidence collapses during losing runs, we all know that, but not to this extent. We also know that any pretence at long-term planning was ruined by the spat with Kevin Pietersen, an injury or two and a few selections which can only be described as punts in the dark, but that is largely irrelevant when it gets this bad.

This was far beyond a side just lacking in confidence. There was no hunger and no pride. There was no common sense. There was no aptitude. Talk of a powerful team ethic just looked like blind loyalty. England were on auto-pilot. They cannot get much worse than this.

What was so concerning about this dreadful England display was the lack of fervour. From the outset they bowled and fielded shabbily, their energy and focus lacking, as if the entire side had been struck overnight by a mysterious virus. Without a shrewd spell by Ravi Bopara, the target could have been even higher. Presented with a total slightly more challenging than it appeared, they never remotely addressed it.

The Chittagong pitches, shorn of the dew that had kept them lively, suddenly looked tired, but the pitch was not as tired as England. It was a dead rubber, too, but it was not as dead England's thought processes. Supporters have a right to expect commitment to the end.

It is important not to draw knee-jerk conclusions from such an appalling display. Preparation is important. Data can be a useful support. But it never replaces the requirement for players to think on their feet and do the job on the field.

How could England so singularly fail to adapt to conditions in day-time matches in Chittagong when the pitch was predictably slower than on the dew-freshened surfaces under lights that they had previously encountered? They have weaknesses on such surfaces, we all know that, too - but this was not India or Sri Lanka at the height of their game, this was the Dutch. The Dutch, who do not know where their next match is coming from, not just sneaking a win, but dishing out a thrashing.

The future is disturbing. But it can't be any worse than the present. For once, an angry response, a simple statement that this is unacceptable, a refusal to countenance any explanation is the only way to respond.

"Complacent," said England's captain, Stuart Broad and Giles in turn. Perhaps England are so low in self-belief that it is the wrong word. But their lack of character was mind-boggling. It was brain dead. England funked it.