The normal reaction to an England test defeat is 'one step forward, two steps back', in that there's normally a silver cloud hidden away somewhere. Headingley 2008 was such an unmitigated disaster that you have to look at this along the lines of 'three steps backwards'. Things haven't felt this bad since Adelaide.
We were out-batted, out-bowled, out-thought and out-played. Most scarily, we seem to have totally forgotten how to play test cricket.
With the honorable exceptions of Alistair Cook, Broad the Younger and Jimmy Anderson, the batting was totally clueless in both innings. I'm not going to go as far as some numbskulls and call for his sacking, but KP needs to have a serious think before the next test, and decide if he's playing for England, or - in the words of Harry, an occasional poster here, 'Kevland'. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to dominate an opposing bowling attack, but there's a time and a place - that wasn't either. You do wonder, however, who's going to be the one to tell him that. Might be worth someone having a word with Duncan Fletcher....
Jimmy Anderson must have wondered why he bothered to put up with such a thorough going over from Steyn when one of the front line batsmen does something that dim-witted and utterly avoidable.
South Africa piled up a huge score because they set out to bat at three an over and to grind England down - and followed that plan to the letter. The whole Australian '4 an over' target that England have slavishly been trying to follow works in certain circumstances - but surely not in overcast conditions against a good attack, nor when you're batting to try and save the game on the fourth day. There's a balance to be struck between outright aggression and strokelessness - England couldn't find it. .
The fact we only had five front line batsmen meant that a certain amount of circumspection was surely called for - yet the batsmen seemed totally unable to change their approach. Don't tell me it's difficult to adapt your game to changing circumstances - we've got a lot of players who manage to switch between 20/20 and test cricket without too much adjustment.
As for the bowling, the whole choice of Pattinson deserves investigating - with suitable checks of Geoff Miller's sanity and bank account. Leaving aside the 'horses for courses' arguement, what sort of message gets sent to those waiting in the wings that an Australian, an Australian, who harboured no ambition to play for England gets a call up ahead of far more suitable candidates.
Freddie had to bowl far to many overs, and by about Saturday lunchtime I reckon Vaughan was having regular wistful thoughts about having Hoggard in his line up. Someone who can bowl long spells and keep the ball in the slot, taking advantage of any swing or movement on offer. I get the impression that his reaction to being told that Pattinson was in the side for the game was similar to the rest of us - 'Who?' or Harmy's excellent 'I thought he was Australian'!
It was pretty clear by Saturday Broad and Anderson were absolutely knackered - so hats off to the latter for having the guts to come out all guns blazing on Sunday. Again though, I bet he's wondering why he bothered.
The problem is one of strategy and outlook - and therefore the problem starts with Peter Moores and the skipper. Whilst there are questions to be asked about his batting - more added to the list with each passing test, Vaughan normally gets a free pass on his captaincy. Before this series we took it as a given that he'd be able to out-manoevre Graeme Smith - but I wouldn't mind betting that he's thought more than once in the past day or so about 'doing a Nasser' - or even jumping before he's pushed, especially taking into account his post game comments which went as far as it's possible to go to publicly disagreeing with the team he was given.
Pissed off.... very, very pissed off.