South Africa's players were "hampered" at the World Cup, coach Ottis Gibson said in the aftermath of their loss to New Zealand. Some had even gone "into their shell" he said, which had contributed to the stilted nature of their batting performances over the last few weeks. There have been less flattering descriptions of South Africa following World Cup exits, of course, but although Gibson did not quite go there he did suggest his team had not been themselves in the tournament.
Having won each of their last five bilateral series - including tilts with Australia and Pakistan - more had been expected of South Africa in this tournament. With Wednesday's defeat, however, they were essentially ruled out of the semi-finals.
"I can't speak of past World Cups, but certainly in this World Cup it seems like guys have been sort of hampered," Gibson said. "That's probably the only word that comes to mind at the moment. You saw the way we played in past series. We play very well in bilateral cricket. We won eight of 10 games before we came here. But we haven't been able to do it here, and that's something I need to sit down and work out.
"We've spoken that language of being positive and aggressive and taking the game forward for a long time. To see, when we come to this stage, guys go into their shell a bit, is a little bit surprising to be honest. I keep going back to the way we played in Sri Lanka, when we won the series there last year. There was a lot of talk about us not being able to play spin. We got 300 in one game and guys played with a lot of freedom. We came to the World Cup and we've not been able to reach those heights."
Like captain Faf du Plessis, Gibson largely laid the blame for their poor World Cup campaign at the feet of South Africa' batsmen - particularly those players in the top order with substantial experience. Hashim Amla has produced a high score of 55 across the five games so far, David Miller has not breached 40 in three innings, and du Plessis himself has also made only one half-century.
"When you look across teams that have won World Cups, it's their experienced players who have stood up. Our experienced players haven't stood up at this World Cup yet. That's just the way it is. Kane Williamson is a class player, and we've got class players as well, but they haven't shown their class on the grandest stage of all yet. That's difficult. There are guys who are playing their last [World Cup], and I would have thought that they'd want to go out on a good note. The top and bottom of it is that 30s, 40s and the odd 50 aren't going to win you a World Cup. Kane showed how to make a match-winning hundred in tough conditions."