ANY GIVEN MONDAY
This had the chance to be one of those classic Kiwi underdog stories: the one where injury and illness ravage the camp but the "next man up" ethos and refusal to quit shines through.
It'd still be a loss in all likelihood, sure, but what a loss.
So why does it feel such a long, long way short of that?
The wheels on this tour came off a long time ago, so why does this test feel like the trashed wreck of a Subaru Impreza left abandoned alongside the highway?
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The answer is simple: because we were led to believe the Black Caps were better than this; that the days of the moral victory were long gone; that the country had a high-performance environment in place that mitigated against bad luck and circumstance.
And they are better than this. Unquestionably so. Among the range of emotions and white noise you get in the wake of such a crushing defeat is the rush to minimise past achievements as if they are the anomaly.
Most of my text and barbecue-driven conversations over the past week or so have included variations on the suggestion that all New Zealand had done recently was beat up bad sides at home. To accept this you have to perform some mental contortions.
For a start, every side is better at home. That's how international cricket rolls.
For a middle, it wasn't so long ago that New Zealand was the bad side that every good team beat up. That they're the bad-team bully now represents a huge leap in expectation.
For an end, New Zealand have beaten England in a test series five times in 90 years, two of them have occurred in the past two years. That is not an accident.
The Black Caps have earned their bouquets. To argue otherwise is cynical.
Conversely, they earned their brickbats over the past month. To argue otherwise is pointless.
It has been an embarrassing tour that can be encapsulated in one hideous fact: in three tests, New Zealand has failed to reach the follow-on three times.
With a line-up that includes Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and BJ Watling – who would all be shortlisted for the best in their position in New Zealand cricket history – and Henry Nicholls, who came into the tour as a top 10 player in the world, how is that even possible?
Quite easily, as it turns out. After five completed innings – this was written halfway through the dreadful fourth-innings chase in Sydney, the New Zealand card makes sorry reading. Not one of the big guns had totaled in five bats what Marnus Labuschange did in the first innings at Sydney.
Williamson (aggregate 57 in four innings) was out of touch and then absent.
Taylor (152 in six innings) has been skittish and hurried, though his fast hands got him a decent score in the first innings in Perth.
Watling (86 after five) has been ineffective and ill-equipped to defend balls that bounce above waist level.
Nicholls (61 in four innings) has been out of touch and then absent.
Latham (126 in six innings) has been the closest to being in form and is also the closest to representing New Zealand's issues. At least he looks like he is batting to a plan – it's just a bad plan.
He scored at a rate of about one run every three balls and was unable to turn the strike over. His stasis has permeated down the order. When it was announced today that his batting time for the series had gone past 10 hours, one of the commentators commended him for digging in.
"Digging himself a hole," was co-commentator Mark Waugh's acid reply.
Waugh might have been playing for laughs but it's true that it has never felt like New Zealand has approached an innings looking to put pressure on Australia. At times the batting has been borderline unwatchable.
It speaks volumes that the two most fluent innings in the series were Tom Blundell's lost-cause, second-innings century in Melbourne and Jeet Raval's betting-with-house-money 31 at Sydney. It speaks at a slightly lower volume that Glenn Phillips' 52 – dropped twice and caught off a no-ball - is regarded as a high point of the tour.
Australia's attack in home conditions is relentlessly excellent. You cannot discount that. A batsman's execution of skills will always be tested and will sometimes fail.
What is harder to stomach is such a passive response to excellence. From ball one New Zealand has looked like it was batting for rain.
The bowling has been a little better, a little unluckier, but still deficient.
Neil Wagner's industry highlighted his stamina and the lack of options.
In a perfect world, he is the middle overs role player, a supporting actor. He should be Joe Pesci, but here he was asked to be Pesci, De Niro and the guy who builds the sets. It's no wonder that by the second innings in Sydney he looked three inches smaller – and several km/h slower – than in Perth.
New Zealand put heavy emphasis on taking wickets at the top with swing and when that didn't happen Wagner was Plan B. There was no Plan C.
There has been misfortune. Lockie Ferguson could have given New Zealand thrust but looked short of a gallop in Perth and was invalided out of the tour. Trent Boult, New Zealand's most accomplished swing bowler of the decade, ruled himself out of Perth, was ineffective in Melbourne and then missed Sydney through injury.
Natural attrition is one thing, unnatural selection another.
Quite what Gary Stead was thinking when dropping Tim Southee for Sydney is difficult to fathom. By the second innings in Melbourne, Southee was looking a bit ground down – 100 overs across two hot tests will do that to you – but with Williamson out through sickness his experience should have made him indispensable.
Less than a year ago he was about to captain New Zealand in a test before terror in Christchurch had the last word. Here, he wasn't next captain up; he wasn't even in the team.
Stead said Southee had taken on a huge workload this summer and New Zealand needed more pace in the attack. Fair enough, perhaps, but that rationale was undone by the fact he was replaced by Matt Henry, a bowler just above medium pace who has struggled to take wickets at test level.
At one point in the first innings at the SCG, Henry, with a bowling average approaching 50, was replaced by Todd Astle, with an average in the mid-50s – oh what days.
Which brings us to the spinners and the absence of logic.
Since the start of the 2017-18 home summer, discounting the odd part-time over, New Zealand has used five spinners across 18 tests: Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel.
With admittedly small sample sizes, only two had maintained anything like test-standard figures, yet neither Somerville nor Patel were originally selected, presumably because they cannot bat.
Strangely enough, with Australia compiling 671-12 in Sydney, the bowling attack has performed about as well as Cricinfo.com's Statsguru page suggested it would. Someone should do the right thing and forward the link to the selectors.
As Australia chased quick runs for a declaration in Sydney, New Zealand started to look like a rabble. That is hardly surprising when several of those patrolling the turf have spent most of their careers wearing big gloves behind the stumps.
But let's not go there. This tour has been hard enough as it is.
This is a good team playing bad cricket. Take comfort in the fact there will be better days ahead.
There cannot possibly be worse.