London - If the Proteas woke bleak anyway on a cloudy Monday here, the newspapers certainly offered little comfort.
There was reasonably predictable, cutting commentary on yet another meltdown by South Africa near the back end of a major ICC event; this time an eight-wicket thrashing by India in an effective quarter-final of the Champions Trophy at The Oval a day earlier.
“Billed as a heavyweight battle between AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, this match turned out to be a one-sided contest, which again exposed South Africa’s glass jaw in knockout matches ... this was a group game in name only,” wrote Nick Hoult of The Daily Telegraph.
“South Africa’s tag as cricket’s chokers hangs heavily around their necks.”
In his description of the especially farcical run-out - one of three in the SA innings - involving Faf du Plessis and David Miller scrambling for the same end, Hoult wrote: “The collective brain fade ended up with the batsmen asking each other which one should be on his way.
“The cameras zoomed in on (captain AB) De Villiers on the dressing room balcony. The blank stare said it all. His team were already staring at the abyss.”
Lawrence Booth of the Daily Mail said the Miller-Du Plessis flashpoint was “the vignette that told the tale ... faced with another day of destiny at a global tournament, South Africa did what they do best: they blew it”.
He added: “For South Africa, it was a day when the c-word hung heavy in the south London air. Let's not mince words: they choked so badly not even Dr Henry Heimlich and his airways-freeing manoeuvre could have saved them.
“At 140 for two in the 29th over, they were on course to give India’s powerful line-up a run for their rupees in what was effectively a quarter-final.
“Two quick run-outs changed the mood, triggering old demons and a collapse of eight for 51. It was the equal of any of South Africa’s surrenders down the years and there have been a few.
“The first victim was De Villiers, who arrived here as one of the game’s glitterati but has endured a tournament to forget.
“It was schoolboy stuff, draining South Africa of all belief. Du Plessis soon dragged the ball on to his wicket against Pandya. The rest were no more than lemmings.”
In The Guardian, Adam Collins said the Proteas were “smothered”.
He said the top seeds’ exit was sealed by a “skittish batting effort, punctuated by three run-outs ranging from desperate to comical”.
“South Africa are again left to ponder what might have been. They will do so while remaining in the country rather than returning home, continuing their tour of England with four Tests at the conclusion of the Champions Trophy.
“That will hurt, and it should.”
*Rob Houwing covered the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing