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They filed out of their Newlands dressing room in dribs and drabs, looking like a funeral procession and boarding their bus to some cackles, but mainly pitying stares from the horde of locals.
Leading the way was captain Brendon McCullum who surely never envisaged this for his first day in charge of the New Zealand test side; dismissed for 45 by South Africa on day one of the first test.
"It's sombre. There's some really hurt boys and everyone's bitterly disappointed," McCullum said.
"We had such high hopes coming into this game and wanted to start well against this side and to have put out the performance we did today ... you look around the changing room and you know everyone is hurting immensely and we know we've let our fans down as well which hurts a lot."
McCullum's first big decision of the day returned to haunt him. Proudly standing in his black blazer and cap alongside South Africa's Graeme Smith, he batted first on winning the toss and was confident he'd got it right.
"I definitely thought about it [fielding first]. I had a long hard look at the pitch yesterday and saw the progression of it today after it had been cut and I thought there was an even grass cover and it was reasonably dry and there were a few cracks.
"I knew it was going to be challenging for the first part, obviously not 10 for 45 challenging, In hindsight it would have been nice for us to have had that assistance with the ball but if we'd done it well with the bat it could have been one of us sitting on 100 not out overnight."
McCullum and his fellow batsmen had no answer to a masterful display of seam bowling by Vernon Philander (5-7) who also terrorised them in the home series in March. The skipper, who faced 19 balls for seven, said it was a mix of poor batting and excellent bowling, "as good a spell as you'll see in test cricket".
"I don't think there was a 20 minute partnership. The whole day we were never able to repel the challenge. That's why they're such a great bowling lineup because they constantly put you under pressure.
"The conditions clearly helped [Philander] today in his ability to constantly hit that same line and length and have the ball dart back in or hold its line and bounce away. I can't stress how great a bowling performance that was but we need to be better as well."
So what's left? New Zealand begin day two trailing by 207 with South Africa 252-3 and Alviro Petersen 103 not out. McCullum was also unhappy with the bowling and fielding efforts.
Facing a big deficit against the world No 1 side, he said they needed to bat for their lives. He was confident their gameplans and skill levels were still up to scratch.
At the suggestion things could only get better, McCullum managed to crack a smile.
"I hope so. I'm in for a pretty tough little initiation if it doesn't.
"It's clearly not a good day for anyone involved in our team. We are hurting immensely and we know we've got a monumental job to pull ourselves out of this and salvage something and that's the challenge, turn up and put in a performance that's worthy of the New Zealand cricket team."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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