ABU DHABI // On the evidence of two matches and a little over six hours of cricket, this looks like it is going to be another very long, hard month in the life of Pakistan cricket.
Having moped their way through a sullen summer in the UK, when defeats and controversies piled up in equal measure, players and supporters alike were hoping for some respite when their side touched down in the Emirates.
However, judging by the most insipid start imaginable to their series against South Africa, they are still mired in a slough of scandal fatigue.
South Africa did not even break sweat in clinching a 2-0 Twenty20 (T20) series victory in Abu Dhabi last night.
Despite their inexperience, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Dusty Theron, two-little heralded seam-bowlers, had more than enough for this Pakistan side.
And it could yet get worse before it gets better. The Proteas still have some heavy artillery to bring back.
Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis both arrived in the UAE nursing injuries. By the look of their intensive work-outs ahead of last night's match, each is straining at the leash to return.
Who they are going to replace is unclear. The players who apparently had the most precarious grip on places in the line up have been among the best performers so far.
For example, Tsotsobe, the left-arm medium-pacer, added two wickets to his previous evening's decisive haul of three to set up the victory, South Africa's sixth in succession in this format.
Theron, meanwhile, helped himself to four, which included an exhibition in how to bowl at the end of an innings when he picked up three in four balls in the last over, to restrict Pakistan to 120 for nine.
South Africa were not entirely untroubled in chasing down the target. Graeme Smith, Loots Bosman and AB de Villiers all went against type for the second evening running, as the struggled to find the boundary.
Each scored at less than a run per ball before departing.
However, JP Duminy (20 off 16 balls) and Colin Ingram (31 off 17 balls), the finishers in game one, teamed up again to guide their side towards a six-wicket win.
The players on both sides wore black armbands and observed a minute silence before the start, to respect the passing of Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah.
For the same reason, the stewards had been instructed to try to keep crowd volume to an acceptable minimum.
In truth, Pakistan's batsmen did a perfectly adequate job of maintaining the air of solemnity.
The departure of Umar Akmal, the temperamental whizz-kid of the Pakistan batting line-up, summed up the malaise neatly.
His run out, for five, was not even comical. It was plain bad. Attempting a second run with his side on 36 for three, Umar was sent back by his partner, Misbah-ul-Haq.
He eventually skidded to a halt on the dewy grass next to the batting strip, and proceeded to turn slower than any oil tanker rerouting on the Arabian Gulf as he tried to recover his ground.
He was nowhere near safety by the time the bails were broken, and Pakistan were lurching ever nearer the point of no return. They really did not know whether they were coming or going.
Even though there have been no demons in the wicket, they took longer to rack up 100 than ever before in T20 internationals - breaking the record they had set the previous evening.
Hopefully this weekend, when the case of two alleged spot-fixers, Salman Butt and Mohammad Aamer, is heard by the International Cricket Council, will be a watershed.
The Pakistan players need to get their minds back on the game soon, because South Africa are playing a different game at present.
Pakistan Innings Shahzaib Hasan c Botha b Tsotsobe 6 Imran Farhat b Tsotsobe 9 Mohammad Hafeez b M Morkel 14 Misbah-ul-Haq c A Morkel b Theron 33 Umar Akmal run out 5 Shahid Afridi c Smith b Theron 3 Abdul Razzaq c Theron b A Morkel 25 Zulqarnain Haider b Theron 17 Umar Gul b Theron 0 Saeed Ajmal not out 1 Extras: (3lb, 4w) 7 TOTAL: (for nine wickets) 120 Overs: 20. Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-29, 3-29, 4-36, 5-39, 6-84, 7-119, 8-119, 9-120. Did not bat: Shoaib Akhtar. Bowling: Albie Morkel 4-0-31-1, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 4-1-20-2, Morne Morkel 4-1-22-1 (1w), Johan Botha 4-0-17-0 (2w), Juan Theron 4-0-27-4 (1w).
South Africa Innings Graeme Smith st Haider b Ajmal 38 Loots Bosman lbw Afridi 11 AB de Villiers c Farhat b Hafeez 11 Jean-Paul Duminy not out 20 Colin Ingram c Akmal b Akhtar 31 David Miller not out 6 Extras: (2lb, 6w) 8 TOTAL: (for four wickets) 125 Overs: 18.4. Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-63, 3-68, 4-109 Did not bat: . Bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 4-0-36-1 (1w), Umar Gul 3.4-0-32-0 (1w), Mohammad Hafeez 4-0-19-1 (3w), Shahid Afridi 4-0-13-1, Saeed Ajmal 3-1-23-1 (1w).