Johannesburg - At lunch on day three of the third Test against England in Johannesburg on Saturday the Proteas would have fancied their chances.
They were 16/0, ahead in the game and looking to manufacture as big a target as possible in their bid to level the series.
One Stuart Broad masterclass later and it was all over - the Proteas crashing to defeat by seven wickets before the day was done.
It was a bitter pill for AB de Villiers to sallow in his first match as Test captain.
At the post-match presser he was trying his best to look forward to the fourth Test in Centurion, but the hurt was unmissable.
"It’s difficult to put into a few words, but very
disappointed obviously. It’s tough to lose the series. There’s obviously still
a lot to play for, but it’s never nice to lose a series and I almost feel like all
hope is gone," said De Villiers.
"I’m still the kind
of guy who will get myself going for that last Test match and will get the team
The Proteas have also now lost their No 1 Test ranking regardless of what happens in next week's fourth Test in Pretoria, and De Villiers acknowledged that the side was not performing to expectations.
"We’re still up there in the rankings and all that but that means
absolutely nothing," he said.
"I believe our form of late has been pretty poor and it’ll
take something special to turn it around.
"It’s important for us to keep
fighting and find that type of cricket that we’re looking to play. But we’re a
little bit off-beat at the moment, that’s for sure."
De Villiers would not blame his players, though, and he acknowledged their commitment to the cause through what he said was "some of the best bowling" he had ever faced.
"The message in the change room the whole time was to keep
fighting and there’s no doubt in my mind that all 11 kept fighting right to the
end," he said.
"But we just got a good hammering from the opposition, there’s no other way
to put it.
"Every time we looked like we were starting a partnership there was a
good catch or a good delivery and it just kept going like that. I guess when
the momentum is on your side things tend to happen that way.
"I think the talent is there … it’s just a matter of finding
a bit of consistency and applying more pressure more often.
"This is the team we have and this is the team I believe in.
It’s now up to the 11 that get picked at SuperSport Park to turn things around
and to find something special."