Trevor Bayliss admits England have had a 'reality check' about their current capabilities - but still have the potential to fare well at the ICC World Twenty20 next month.
Eoin Morgan's team finished their tour of South Africa with a chastening sequence, dispiriting some might even say, of five straight white-ball defeats.
The worst was saved until last too, as England were trounced by nine wickets at the Wanderers to lose the Twenty20 series 2-0 after their last seven wickets fell for 14 runs on the way to 171 all out and they were then powerless to stop AB de Villiers (71) and Hashim Amla (69no) making a mockery of that target in an opening stand of 125 which took just 50 balls.
De Villiers needed only 21 of them to race to his country's all-time fastest 50 in the sprint format - and from 27, Amla was no slouch either.
Bayliss' immediate response, in a post-match broadcast interview after England had lost with more than five overs unused, was to equate the unequal contest to "men against boys".
Asked whether 'reality check' might be another appropriate term, he said: "Yes, certainly.
"It shows we've still got a lot of hard work to be done."
Less than two weeks ago, England were 2-0 up in a five-match one-day international series - and at that point young seamer Reece Topley, who turned 22 as his team slid to their latest and heaviest defeat on Sunday, was bold enough to target a 5-0 whitewash of South Africa.
That was not to be, and how.
Bayliss added: "We've had some good results, but it's a reminder to people back home in England that this team is still a developing one.
"We've had some good performances, and there's a lot of potential there.
"But potential never won anything ... we've got some hard work to do.
"I think the expectation the players have put on themselves is why they are so disappointed when they play badly.
"It may be that extra pressure they put on themselves that they've got to get over."
The Australian still believes, however, that England are a team capable of surprising opponents once they get to India - including South Africa, whom they will face in a group match.
"We'd obviously be better off going to the World Twenty20 with a couple of wins under our belts," he added.
"But in Twenty20, the momentum of games can change very quickly - and so can results.
"I don't think it really matters all that much.
"We're three weeks away yet from the first game and have a couple of practice games over there ... we're looking forward to them."
At least England ought not to be over-hyped as they bid to win a global trophy for only the second time.
"I wouldn't say we're favourites, by any means," added Bayliss.
"There are a lot of good teams out there, with a lot of experience.
"If we play well ... we'll be hard to beat.
"In the last two games, we haven't played all that well - and in this game, we've been beaten easily.
"We're going to have to play a lot better than that."
England's white-ball campaign here suddenly unravelled shortly after Topley started daring to dream.
Even so, had Adil Rashid held a relatively straightforward catch at mid-off when Topley was bowling to Chris Morris at the Wanderers 10 days ago, they would have wrapped up the ODI series with a match to spare.
"It's small margins," said Bayliss.
"One catch (taken), and we'd have only lost the last four - and we'd have won the one-day series.
"That's as simple as it can get. You win that fourth match, who knows ... it might have given the boys enough confidence to go on and win the fifth one.
"We've got to learn from that, and work out how we can get better.
"If that's taking examples from some of the best players we play against as well, then (so be it)."
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