A tale of familiar failings from South Africa

Agarkar: Not winning big tournaments will weigh on SA's mind (4:26)

Ajit Agarkar and Shaun Tait try to deconstruct South Africa's failings under pressure (4:26)

Here they are again. South Africa. Without a major trophy. It's a script so well known, it must be close to being a classic. And today, South Africa were unable to write a different ending.

Panic, even before they were under pressure, was South Africa's undoing and it was quite simply inexplicable. But we have to try to understand.

Let's start with just the cricket on the day. The scoreboard was moving slowly. South Africa had only hit three boundaries in the first 10 overs, only one more than they managed against Sri Lanka last week. Their run-rate of 3.97 after 15 overs was the lowest among all teams but they would not have known that when Hashim Amla played the cut to an R Ashwin delivery that was too full for the shot and nicked off.

What they would have known then was what was said pre-match; that Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would be their undoing. And they may have started to overthink it. Even Quinton de Kock - the self-confessed least-thinking member of the side - seemed to let it get to him. There is no other reason for de Kock, who was so well set, for missing a straight one from Jadeja and being bowled under the bat.

Then the real nerves set in. Four balls short of the halfway stage and the total was not even at 120. Could 300, the score accepted as only just par, still be on the cards?

South Africa didn't know but AB de Villiers wanted to find out. After watching the openers play as though this was the first morning of a Test, de Villiers approached it like an exhibition T20. He was all energy and urgency, fidgety at the crease, frantic between the wickets. Aggressive strokeplay has been de Villiers' undoing in this tournament so far, undue acceleration ended his innings today.

Faf du Plessis wanted the run, de Villiers responded, put in the dive, and didn't make it. One of them should have said no. One of them should have thought of the 22.4 overs that were still to be played and the runs that needed to be scored there. But they didn't.

The one who remained at the crease should have known that could not be repeated. Yet five minutes and five balls later, du Plessis went for a run again and by the time he remembered he shouldn't have, it was too late. In that tiny passage of play everything changed and South Africa showed it.

Though they were 142 for 4 with 20 overs still remaining, had you looked at de Villiers and not the scoreboard at that moment, you would have thought the game had already ended. De Villiers was the picture of 'pissed off'. His brow was furrowed, his fists were clenched, his eyes were empty. The previous five minutes had brought two calamitous run-outs, If you were du Plessis, you might have guilt. If you were JP Duminy or Chris Morris or Andile Phehlukwayo or any of the bowlers who had to defend whatever scraps you were presented with, your motivation would have been snatched away.

The expressions only got glummer as the innings went on. At one point the camera panned to de Kock, who had his arm around David Miller's shoulders. There were still 15 overs left to bat but South Africa seemed to have signed off.

Maybe you can't really blame them. They'd seen it all before. Seen it on television. Seen it with their own eyes. Seen it against this opposition. Seen it at this very ground. In their last Champions Trophy knockout match, South Africa were 80 for 8 against England before Miller and Rory Kleinveldt had put on 95 for the ninth wicket. They only totaled 175 and then-coach Gary Kirsten said "a dark mist" had descended on South African cricket. It's funny how the skies clear completely during bilateral series, South Africa win just about everything - even deciders - and then the fog returns when it really matters.

Maybe something can be read into the fact that at the optional training, on Friday at Lord's, only three members of the South African squad turned up. Keshav Maharaj. Dwaine Pretorius. Wayne Parnell. None of them played in this match. Maharaj was unlucky not to be given a game, especially against Pakistan, Parnell was rightly dropped, Pretorius probably knew he was only back-up. But where were the rest? They were applying the logic of doing nothing, as Pakistan were forced to do because rain cancelled their training session after the India defeat. In theory, it made sense. You can't fix things in one practice. But perhaps they should have just been seen to be doing something. That may have kept them calmer than trying to avoid everything.

Maybe there are bigger-picture issues at play - issues around the coach and the captain - which are creeping into the mindsets.

South Africa came into this tournament knowing that it could be coach Russell Domingo's last. The board have announced that his contract will not be automatically renewed - presumably as a part of a corporate governance process that dictates it cannot be extended again after three previous ones - and have instituted a five-person panel to recommend a successor. Domingo could well be among their names and the players have said they want him to be, but the man himself has given no indication if he wants to carry on.

Contrastingly, de Villiers has given such strong signs of prolonging his career until the 2019 World Cup that he has opted out of Test cricket for the rest of this year, after last playing in January 2016. Injury kept him out of series against New Zealand and Australia and he only made his return early this year. All that means de Villiers flits into and out of the set-up, picking formats he wants to be part of, even though he is on a top-tier national contract. No one else in the team can or has done that. Maybe that has bred some division.

But it is not as though other teams don't have similar problems. India are unsure of the future of their coach, Australia (though, they too are knocked out) are unsure if they will have contracted cricketers, Pakistan's perennial dramas will fill many more pages than this one.

So what is it about South Africa? You're tired of asking yourself that, I am tired of attempting to answer it. Surely, South Africa must be tired of living it.