Cape Town (AFP) - Stand-in Australia captain Tim Paine admitted Sunday that his team was "struggling with the enormity" of the ball-tampering scandal which has engulfed them.
Paine was drafted in to replace Steve Smith who stood down as skipper for the remainder of the match after admitting he was the mastermind of the tampering plot which has rocked the foundations of the sport.
It proved a baptism of fire for the 33-year-old Tasmanian wicket-keeper as Australia's day of shame ended in a crushing 322-run defeat by South Africa on the fourth day of the third Test at Newlands.
Set an unlikely 430 to win, Australia were bowled out for a paltry 107, with fast bowler Morne Morkel taking five for 23.
"It was extremely difficult but it's no excuse for what happened in the last 45 minutes of play," said Paine whose team's challenge fizzled out with 10 wickets falling for just 50 runs.
"We're still the Australian cricket team and we're expected to put up a better effort than we did. Certainly it was in some horrible circumstances and probably some circumstances we brought on ourselves."
Those circumstances included Smith being banned for one match and fined 100 percent of his match fee for his role in hatching the plot which saw Cameron Bancroft caught red-handed trying to alter the condition of the ball during Saturday's play with yellow sticky tape which he shoved down the front of his trousers in an attempt to conceal it.
Bancroft, who admitted the charge, escaped a ban but was fined 75 percent of his fee and warned about his behaviour.
"It has been a horrible 24 hours. We're struggling but the reality and the enormity of what's happened has probably started to sink in," added Paine.
"I don't think we expected this to be as big as it has been, the fall-out we have seen from back home."
Paine admitted that he has no idea if he will still be in charge for the fourth and final Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
By then, it's possible that Smith may have resigned, been sacked or even handed a longer ban for his role in one of the sport's worst cheating scandals.
Smith made only seven runs on Sunday while David Warner, who also stood down from his role as vice-captain, top-scored with 32.
Both men, as well as Bancroft, were loudly booed by the Newlands crowd.
- 'Tighten the screw, no breathing space' -
Sunday's thrashing allowed South Africa to take a 2-1 lead in a series which has featured a number of ugly clashes between the two teams.
Skipper Faf du Plessis refused to gloat, possibly mindful of his own personal charge sheet which has seen him twice fined for ball-related incidents -- one of which was against Australia in 2016.
"The situation I was in was really tough for me," said Du Plessis who was caught on camera sucking on a sweet during the second Test in Hobart, before using his saliva to shine the ball.
The ICC found Du Plessis guilty and fined him 100 percent of his match fee although he avoided a ban.
"Ball shining versus ball tampering are two very different situations and one is much more serious than the other," said Du Plessis who admitted, however, that the pressure heaped on Australia by the global condemnation of the tampering scandal worked in his team's favour on Sunday.
"Away from the game there was a lot of pressure. Make sure the boys are even more motivated to tighten the screw and not give them any breathing space," added the skipper when asked to describe his game-plan.
"What we tried to do was to make them aware there is a lot of pressure on them. A lot of noise that's probably going on inside their heads.
"Trying to get to that space where it's not just about just watching the ball and hitting the ball, it's about a lot of other things, trying to get to a place where you think their brains will go even more over the top thinking about things away from the game."