England’s highly successful 2012 one-day international campaign ended in chastening anti-climax, and a drawn NatWest Series, as South Africa trounced them by seven wickets at Trent Bridge.
Victory would have taken England’s winning ratio to 13 out of 14 completed matches this year, and an eighth consecutive home series success.
Instead, after a string of batsmen had contributed to their own downfall with regrettable shots in England’s 182 all out on a perfectly viable surface, even James Anderson and Jade Dernbach’s new-ball burst could not turn the tide.
From 14-3 in the fifth over, South Africa were hastened home by Hashim Amla (97no) and AB de Villiers (75no) in an unbroken stand of 172.
The end came predictably swiftly, an astounding 15.3 overs to spare illustrating the ease of victory and depth of defeat, as De Villiers hit his first 50 of the summer against England after Amla had coasted past the same milestone for the fourth time.
South Africa’s ODI opener duly finished another prolific series as his team’s top scorer in every match, and with 335 runs in all.
England captain Alastair Cook was frustrated after his side let the series victory slip away with a dismal batting performance.
England narrowly remain at No 1 in the ODI rankings but Cook said: “It was a disappointing day, 180 on that wicket was nowhere near enough.
“We pretty much all gave our wickets away. It’s frustrating, we came into the game trying to wrap up the series, and you’re not going to do that when you bat like that.
“It has been a good year, we’ve used a lot of players as well so we’re building a squad.
“And we’ve competed in sub-continental conditions as well, so hopefully we can take that forward to our next tour in India.”
Only Cook (51) and Chris Woakes had done themselves any justice with the bat for England.
The hosts lost their first two wickets for the addition of one run, in the fourth and fifth overs, after choosing to bat on a glorious afternoon for this day-night fixture.
They made an encouraging start until Ian Bell missed a delivery that came on with the arm from Robin Peterson (3-37) and was lbw pushing forward, Kumar Dharmasena’s decision confirmed after the batsman invoked DRS.
Ravi Bopara, pushed up to No 3 in the absence of the injured Jonathan Trott, is enduring a nightmare run of form.
His troubles continued when Dale Steyn pitched one in the ideal place and found just enough movement for Bopara to be caught behind for single figures for the third successive time in this series.
This was also his second duck in those three innings, and put added pressure on new batsman Jonny Bairstow – called up for his first one-day international cap since last October.
The young Yorkshireman fared well in a 55-run stand with Cook, until he became the first of three successive batsmen to fall to catches chipped unerringly straight into fielders’ hands.
Bairstow picked out deep square-leg off Morne Morkel; Eoin Morgan hit his second delivery, from JP Duminy, to mid-on – where Amla had just been brought up five yards to save the single.
Then Cook, who had done so much of the hard work on his way to his first half-century in his last 10 Test and ODI innings, lost his famed concentration against Faf du Plessis’s part-time leg-spin and pushed a low full toss back for a routine return catch.
It was an unsatisfactory end to his 72-ball stay, and a similar summary applied when Craig Kieswetter mistimed an attempted big hit off Morkel and skied a catch to Amla again at mid-off.
After the wicketkeeper-batsman had gone in the powerplay, following back Nottinghamshire’s own Samit Patel – who gloved a slower-ball bouncer from Steyn behind – England subsided as Peterson took two wickets in successive balls.
The tourists’ reply was almost immediately minus Graeme Smith and Du Plessis, the opener caught by a juggling James Tredwell at second slip off Dernbach and the out-of-form No 3 edging to the wicketkeeper off a rampant Anderson.
England’s pace spearhead struck for a second time when Dean Elgar edged behind but Amla and De Villiers combined in a one-sided contest.