Amla and AB seal victory
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.
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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 for three 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.
Only captain Alastair 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 (three for 37) and was lbw pushing forward, Kumar Dharmasena's decision confirmed after the batsman invoked DRS.
Ravi Bopara, pushed up to number three 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' 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 began what should have been the last 10 overs on an unpromising 165 for seven.
The tail then folded to Peterson, who took two wickets in two balls - and not even Woakes' career-best 33 not out could salvage much worthwhile before Dernbach was last out in just 45.2 overs.
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 number three edging to the wicketkeeper off a rampant Anderson.
England's pace spearhead, on one of his favourite hunting grounds, struck for a second time when Dean Elgar edged behind to go for a tortured single after a hapless collection of plays and misses.
But the rush of wickets brought man-of-the-series Amla and captain De Villiers together early - and South Africa's most accomplished batsmen, ranked first and third in the world, soon put the struggles of England's batsmen into stark yet fair context.
Amla was marginally first to his 50, in 63 balls, but De Villiers got there more quickly - hitting eight fours from just 54 deliveries.
Once the fourth-wicket pair had ridden the storm against Anderson, they were never out of a canter in a decidedly one-sided contest.