Were South Africa too clever for their own good?

'We were outplayed in all departments' - Duminy (3:40)

JP Duminy conceded that Bangladesh were the better team in the series, but that South Africa were looking to end the tour on a high with victory in the Tests (3:40)

Now, the questions will start to pour South Africa's way. How did they lose an ODI series to Bangladesh when that has never happened before? Is this a World Cup hangover? Did they underestimate their opposition? Was the idea of experimentation taken too far? Did they just not care enough?

None of the above, according to the stand-in captain: "We misread conditions. We were rusty and we haven't played good cricket."

All of the above, according to the evidence.

Anyone who watched South Africa's best players on their knees at Eden Park in March knew that their one-day cricket would not quite be the same again. Something shifted that day, and perhaps South Africa themselves are still not quite sure what it was. The immediate aftermath of the World Cup suggested a fresh start was coming. Changes were made to the support staff, the selectors and some parts of the domestic structures. Then, an experimental squad, especially in the fifty-over format, was sent to Bangladesh. Why? Because South Africa could.

It made sense to send a mix of players, from the incumbents to the up-and-comers, to play ODI cricket because one World Cup had ended and another was still four years away. But maybe South Africa took it too far.

They left their premier pace pack at home entirely for the T20Is, and brought back only a third of it, in the form of Morne Morkel, for the ODIs. Then, they only played Morkel in one match, the decider. His return was the most expensive, but had he been in action all along, that might have been different. Morkel was South Africa's best bowler at the World Cup and if there needed to be a changing of the guard, he should have been there to oversee it.

They also left out their best batsman. When it emerged AB de Villiers would be banned for the first ODI following an over-rate violation at the World Cup, and with the knowledge he would miss the Test series because of paternity leave anyway, South Africa agreed to send him home early, but decided not to call up a reserve batsman. "The selectors backed those seven batters to do the job," JP Duminy said.

In other words, they did not expect South Africa to be exposed as over-reliant on de Villiers, but they were. Not so much as individuals, but as participants in a partnership. In the two matches South Africa lost, they had just one stand over fifty. In complete contrast, Bangladesh had two century stands. South Africa's batsmen lacked the staying power against shrewd seam-bowling and spin.

"Our batting wasn't good enough in this ODI series," Duminy said. "We've got a lot of work to do in these conditions, in having game plans that are going to be successful in these conditions. We didn't build partnerships and that's been our strength."

South Africa can continue to question whether they need de Villiers to remind them of the importance of the team game, which is essentially the building of partnerships, but they cannot wonder why their batting failed them. There were not enough partnerships, so maybe they should not have rested the person who is the master of creating them.

The concept of resting players will crop up now, especially because most of South Africa's players had time off after the IPL. A handful - Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, Eddie Leie - were playing on the county circuit or at the CPL. Was there really, as Paul Harris, former Test spinner, asked during his television analysis, a need to "rest playing even after they have been rested?"

With the season ahead, which stretches to next March and includes home series against New Zealand, England and Australia, a full tour of India and a World T20, perhaps rest is indeed required, but rotation was what South Africa were going for. If a player pool is deep, it pays off, but this does not always happen.

South Africa's rotation policy shone the light on Kagiso Rabada's international ability, but asked whether Abbott is as effective in conditions which challenge him as he is on those which assist him. The problem is that the rotation asked more questions than it answered.

Apart from Abbott, it raised the issue of when a designated allrounder should be appointed and whether he should he be given a sustained run in the team. It further asked if that person should be Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren, Chris Morris, David Wiese or someone else entirely. It asked whether Quinton de Kock needs some TLC in the domestic game or an A tour to get back to his best, and whether another spinner should be given game time to avoid the over-dependance on Imran Tahir.

What it did not do was take away the obvious: that South Africa simply ran into an in-form team on the up. Perhaps the real truth is that nobody expected that team to be Bangladesh.