NZ's collapse a glaring blemish on record
If it was his darkest cricketing day, Brendon McCullum wasn't letting on.
The New Zealand skipper wouldn't go so far as to label this 2-0 series hiding by South Africa as the bleakest moment of his international career. That begs the question, what could possibly top this?
"No, I wouldn't go to that extreme. Obviously it's incredibly disappointing and it hurts a lot to suffer a 2-0 loss, and in the fashion that we have," McCullum said.
"But the acknowledgement of the difference in class between the teams is important for perspective. Yes, we weren't good enough and didn't front up when we needed to, but we were also placed under tremendous pressure by a team at the very top of their game and that should provide some learning opportunities for us.
"Yes it should hurt, but we've got a pretty good blueprint of how the best team in the world goes about their cricket."
Without their best batsman, Ross Taylor (unavailable) and best bowler Tim Southee (thumb injury), this was expected to be a struggle. But not this complete mismatch of epic proportions.
The final collapse of this bleak fortnight happened on the fourth morning of the second test when the tourists lost five for eight in 30 balls, tumbling to an innings and 193 run defeat to South Africa at St George's Park. They were dismissed for 211 in 86.4 overs as the second new ball finished them off.
The margin was New Zealand's sixth-heaviest test loss among the 47 innings defeats they've received.
In terms of actual playing time, the two-test series lasted less than six days, after the lowest point when New Zealand were shot out for 45 on day one in Cape Town on the way to an innings and 27 run defeat.
New Zealand's batsmen - with the exception of BJ Watling and Dean Brownlie - failed to cope with South Africa's pace barrage, and a bit of well timed Robin Peterson spin. They couldn't top 300 in four innings and rather than improve for the second test, they plummeted to 62-9 on the third morning.
The test series would be reviewed among the tour party tomorrow before the side begin preparing for the first of three one-day internationals in Paarl on Saturday.
The tour began under a cloud of the Taylor fiasco when he refused to tour after the way he was stripped of the captaincy by coach Mike Hesson. It hung over the team throughout this series.
McCullum said: "Obviously it's nice to have a team in harmony throughout the entire life cycle of the team. Unfortunately certain situations arise and that one was addressed early in the tour.
"The guys who boarded the plane came over here and fronted up to the best team in the world and were exposed, that's just unfortunate. I can't really comment on the other aspects. It's about how we've dealt with over here than what we longed for back home."
McCullum said Taylor's likely return would have to be managed well. The former skipper makes his return to cricket in a Plunket Shield game for Central Districts in Napier on January 24 and has targeted a comeback for England.
"It's going to have to be process worked through to ensure the integration back into team is smooth and everyone's got best interests of team at heart.
"I'm hoping that will be smooth process. Ross is coming back to play a few games leading up to the England series which is great, and I'm sure he's determined to come back and make an impact in this team."
Resuming on 157-4, New Zealand's innings lasted another 19.4 overs on day four. After Brownlie (53) and Watling (63) departed - the latter to a snorter from man of the match Dale Steyn - it was over quickly.
The pair added 98 for the fifth wicket, New Zealand's highest partnership of the series.
Steyn took 3-48 to give him match figures of 8-65, and headed off centurymakers Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar for the man of the match gong.
AT A GLANCE
New Zealand's heaviest test cricket defeats:
Innings and 324 runs v Pakistan, Lahore, 2002
Innings and 322 runs v West Indies, Wellington, 1995
Innings and 222 runs v Australia, Hobart, 1993
Innings and 215 runs v England, Auckland, 1963
Innings and 198 runs v India, Nagpur, 2010
Innings and 193 runs v South Africa, Port Elizabeth, 2013