The cause of Australia’s embarrassment and disappointment in Johannesburg was not as serious as that in Cape Town, but a record 492-run defeat was nonetheless concerning for new captain Tim Paine.
Australia’s controversy-plagued tour of South Africa ended on Tuesday with a chaotic collapse, when the hosts completed a historic 3-1 Test series win.
The tourists resumed at 3-88 on day five of the fourth Test, hoping to bat all day and salvage a draw after being set an insurmountable target of 612.
They capitulated in 81 minutes, during which Vernon Philander took a stunning 6-3 in 5.2 overs, as the Proteas recorded their first home Test series win over Australia since the end of apartheid.
Australia was rolled for 119, suffering its second-heaviest defeat – in terms of runs – in Test history.
The meek surrender, which came after Paine fought incredibly hard on day three while batting with a broken thumb, capped one of Australia’s most incredible tours.
Regrettably for coach Darren Lehmann – who tearfully announced last week this would be his final match in charge – plus Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, it was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
The shamed trio are still coming to grips with the cheating scandal, while the entire touring party in South Africa remains disillusioned.
“I thought we were going to be a hell of a lot better than what we were. Obviously it had more of an effect on guys than we knew,” Paine said.
“We’re disappointed with the way we handled it.
“We had the chance to show some real fight and determination and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to because I think, mentally, we weren’t quite there.
“There is a fair bit of disappointment and borderline embarrassment in the dressing rooms.
“There is certainly some areas of concern.”
Kagiso Rabada collected man-of-the-series honours, having shifted momentum last month with a haul of 11-150 in Port Elizabeth that helped the Proteas to level the series 1-1.
Man of the match Philander was unstoppable on Tuesday, removing the Marsh brothers in his opening over, before accounting for Peter Handscomb, Paine, Pat Cummins and Chadd Sayers.
“South Africa were outstanding … they outplayed us,” Paine said.
Australia will be without its two best batsmen for a year – depending on the result of any potential hearings.
The absence of Smith and Warner was glaring at the Wanderers.
“We’ve lost two of the best players in the world. A lot of us have got to step up and take the slack,” Paine said.
However, the tourists’ batting woes were an issue on the trip long before the former captain and vice-captain were sacked.
Cricket Australia (CA) soon will announce details of an independent review of the team’s culture and conduct, with the expectation being that both cricket and non-cricket figures will be involved.
CA will then turn its attention to appointing Lehmann’s successor before Australia’s ODI and T20 series with England in June, with Justin Langer considered the frontrunner.
Paine, backed as the nation’s long-term captain by CA board member Mark Taylor, says teammates are ready to launch the next generation of Australian cricket.
“We’ve potentially maybe had our head in the sand a little bit over the last 12 months,” Paine said.
“(Thinking) if we continue to win, we can kind of act and behave how we like and the Australian public will be OK with that.
“What we’ve probably found out in the past month or so is that the Australian public and our fans don’t necessarily like the way we go about it.
“It’s pretty simple. We have to listen. We have to take it on board and we have to improve our behaviour.
“I know the guys are certainly on board and it’s something that we’re excited about.”
No Australian batsman scored a century this series. That hasn’t happened in a four-Test series since Bill Lawry’s team lost 4-0 in 1970 in South Africa.
That contest was ironically South Africa’s most recent home Test series win over Australia.
South Africa had failed in seven home series against Australia since being welcomed back in 1991 to international cricket.
“This series has been remarkable. To get 80 wickets means your bowling unit is tough,” Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said.