New Zealand again looked susceptible to mental disintegration with their 59-run loss to Sri Lanka at the World T20. It was another clutch match loss at another international tournament. Despite dismissing Sri Lanka for 119, they surrendered with their lowest T20 international score of 60.
The result reinforced last week's two-run loss to South Africa when Dale Steyn conceded just four runs from the last over.
A boom summer hasn't suddenly turned to bust. Achievements at home against the West Indies and India outweigh being dismissed in ignominious fashion from an event cluttering the international landscape. Yet a tournament stigma remains.
New Zealand have made the World T20 semi-finals once in five tournaments; at the inaugural fixture in 2007. Last time, in Sri Lanka during 2012, they exited having tied and subsequently lost in two eliminator overs to the hosts and eventual champions, the West Indies.
An obstacle also remains in World Cups where they've exited the semi-finals at six of 10 tournaments. The 2007 and 2011 departures came courtesy of Sri Lanka.
Television commentator Danny Morrison completed his post-match interview with captain Brendon McCullum with a resounding "chin up, old son", but this morning's effort intensifies the pressure to which the home team will be subjected when the World Cup opens in February.
Regardless of nationality, the match was one where bowlers could unite in solidarity.
Fans generally glug a diet of interminable sixes as batsmen plunder at will in T20s. Not this morning. There were two; both to Sri Lanka. For batsmen, watching both teams shredded was almost as awkward as Trent Boult bouncing out like a Wiggle from behind Tim Southee during the match countdown to declare "Let's go!" How the tournament marketing department convinced the teams to partake in that piece of vaudeville remains as much a mystery as anything delivered by Sri Lankan left-arm orthodox spinner Rangana Herath. Herath finished with five for three from 3.3 overs, including 18 dot balls.
One could be forgiven for looking at the calendar date and assuming the footage was an elaborate hoax. Herath, in his first match of the tournament, had the New Zealanders playing French cricket around their pads despite the paltry target; the lowest defended at the tournament. He applied the type of pressure from which New Zealand must take heed. Add in two run outs, including top scorer Kane Williamson for 42, and the innings spiralled into mayhem.
Dave Dobbyn and Herbs' Slice of Heaven blasted through the stadium but, for New Zealand, it descended into cricketing hell. Routed for 60 is one thing but having it happen in 15.3 overs, where no other batsman passed five, compounded the woe, as did Corey Anderson's inability to bat due to a dislocated finger.
His agony on the way to the hospital must have intensified with updates from across town. McCullum did the right thing asking Sri Lanka to bat with dew expected to make bowling difficult later. The trouble was the dew never arrived; the Sri Lankan bowlers did.
New Zealand's batting collapse distracted from an outstanding bowling and fielding effort. Boult was the highlight, opening with three for 20 from his allotment. His fuller length proved a sound tactical move in place of Southee. An example was his eight balls to Kumar Sangakkara. All but one was a dot before he exited for four off 11.