A timid surrender once again by India's top order batsmen took the joy out of the good work on the field on the second day of the warm up match against Rest of South Africa in Potchefstroom on Friday.
Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer and Sachin Tendulkar, in particular, did little to ease the creases on the forehead of the team management as the Indians tumbled to 93 for seven in the second essay at the Sedgars Park.
The abject surrender by the batsmen came after the bowlers had shot out the hosts for 138 in the first innings and given the visitors a 178-run advantage.
Sehwag (10), Jaffer (0) and Tendulkar (12) continued with their sorry ways on the tour and even though the lead had swelled to 271 by close, the scoreboard at close had the heads downcast in the dressing room.
The unending saga is best reflected in the figures: Sehwag now has 39 runs from four innings; Tendulkar 98 from five and Jaffer 15 from three knocks as the free fall of the Indian top order shows no signs of stopping.
Their dismissals reflected the form they are in: Jaffer and Sehwag showed no movement of feet as they came a cropper against the new ball. And Tendulkar, keen to grind out a long stay at the crease, fell as he had done so many times in the past, leg before wicket to a delivery which swung in and hit him in front of stumps.
First innings hero Sourav Ganguly lasted a mere two balls, both bouncers, but the second more lethal as it climbed on to him and looped off his bat to wicketkeeper Van Jaarsveld for a simple catch.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked to attack, but could only score 16 before edging Alfonso Thomas to second slip.
Harbhajan Singh became Thomas' fifth victim before bad light brought a premature end to the day's proceedings.
Earlier S Sreesanth scalped four and was well-supported by Zaheer Khan and VRV Singh as the tourists bundled out the hosts for 138 in 34-odd overs.
But as the rest of the day unfolded, the joy was short-lived.
Both Sehwag and Jaffer were taken out from the middle by swing bowler Albert Thomas and adding injury to insult was the fact that Jaffer came out to bat with a runner Harbhajan Singh.
Jaffer was apparently hit on his left foot during practice on Thursday and did not field this morning when Rest took their first innings.
Gautam Gambhir fielded in his place but Jaffer was out in the middle when Indians batted again.
Jaffer was the first one to leave when he fell leg before wicket to Thomas and Sehwag departed in similar fashion to the same bowler two overs later.
India now have a real concern at hand since Sehwag and Jaffer have been a regular pair in the last year or so but both are yet to hit their straps on this tour.
India would now have to decide on whether to pick one of them and bring in Gambhir for thefirst Test at the Wanderers starting next Friday.
Earlier, Rest of South Africa's tail wagged a bit to stretch the team's score to 138 after being 106 for 9at one stage.
Sreesanth was the most successful bowler with four for 53 while VRV Singh picked three for 35.
AfterSreesanth struck in his first over, it started a procession of home batsmen to the dressing room.
EvenIrfan Pathan, in his four overs, had a chance to lay claim on one wicket as the Indian pacemen scythed through the home batting.
Left-handedopener and captain Jacques Rudolph could do no better than edge a catch behind the stumps to Sreesanth and then Zaheer from the other end made one leave Alviro Petersen for a catch at second slip.
The hosts tried to counter the situation with aggressive strokeplay but Zaheer got one to dip in late at right-handerJP Duminy and won a leg before verdict.
VRV,introduced after the first spell by the new ball bowlers, bowled beautifully and got the prized wicket of Justin Kemp with a full pitched delivery which swung in sharply to have the batsman leg before wicket.
VRV claimed Alfonso Thomas (0)in similar fashion.
Sreesanth, recalled for his second spell, was rewarded with two scalps as he had Vaughan van Jaarsveld leg before wicket for 52 runs and then cleaned up Paul Adams (0)in similar fashion.
Indians first innings: 316-7 dec (I Pathan 111 not out, S Ganguly 83, Harbhajan Singh 47, M Morkel 4-74)
Rest of South Africa first innings:
J Rudolph c Dhoni b Sreesanth 5
A Petersen c sub b Z Khan 2
J P Duminy lbw b Z Khan 16
V van Jaarsveld lbw b Sreesanth 52
M van Wyk lbw b Pathan 6
J Kemp lbw b VRV Singh 2
A Thomas lbw b VRV Singh 0
P Adams lbw b Sreesanth 0
M Morkel not out 14
F de Wet c Dhoni b Sreesanth 15
Extras (b: 2 lb:8, nb:12) 22
Total (all out in 31.1 overs) 138
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-7, 3-32, 4-67, 5-90, 6-94, 7-94, 8-95, 9-106, 10-138.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 7-0-22-2, S Sreesanth 11.1-3-53-4, I Pathan 4-1-18-1, V R V Singh 9-2-25-3.
Indians second innings:
V Sehwag lbw b Thomas 10
W Jaffer lbw b Thomas 0
VVS Laxman c Diminy b Thomas 31
S Tendulkar lbw b Hayward 12
S Ganguly c Van Jaavsald b Hayward 0
MS Dhoni c Kemp b Thomas 16
I Pathan not out 15
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Thomas 0
S Sreesanth not out 0
Extras (b:4, lb:2, w:2, nb:1) 9
Total (for 7 wickets in 40 overs) 93
Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-14, 3-33, 4-33, 5-55, 6-93, 7-93.
Bowling: Mornie Morkel 12-5-25-0, Alfonso Thomas 15-5-32-5, Hayward 7-3-13-2, De Wet 6-2-17-0.