Late inspiration aids de Villiers
A last-minute change of tactics by AB de Villiers put South Africa on the road to squaring the one-day series after a quick chat with Gary Kirsten led him to open the bowling with Robin Peterson's left-arm spin. Peterson soon removed the in-form Ian Bell and it set the tone for a dominant performance from the visitors who finished the series by cantering to a seven-wicket victory.
It was not the first time Peterson had got the better of England with the new ball. He did significant damage during the World Cup match in Chennai last year where he removed Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in his first over and then added Bell a short while later. While his impact at Trent Bridge was less dramatic it meant England had lost one of their key top-order players, and Peterson later returned to claim two more scalps and finish with 3 for 37.
"That was a late call from me," de Villiers said. "I just discussed it with Gazza (Kirsten) before we went out and said go with your gut feeling. We only had three seamers, I was going to have to bowl a lot of spin and I thought I might buy myself a couple of overs and even pick up a wicket. Robin has done it before and has always been successful. It's never nice as an opener to face a spinner, you want the ball coming into your bat. It paid off today so I'm very chuffed."
Spin played an important part for South Africa during the innings as their part-time bowlers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis, both claimed important breakthroughs in their opening overs. Duminy had Eoin Morgan caught at mid-on for a duck and du Plessis could barely believe his good fortune when Alastair Cook spooned back a full toss. De Villiers, as captain, could do no wrong.
"It doesn't always pay off but I just went with my gut feeling," he said. "It was important to change the pace of the game, I felt they had started to settle in nicely. It's not nice when you are set and the captain keeps changing things. It came off today."
Although there was the common sight of Hashim Amla making a significant score as South Africa overcame a wobble at 14 for 3, the run chase also marked de Villiers' first international half-century of the tour.
"It's been a fairly quiet summer for me but a very enjoyable one," he said. "I felt I was in good form right throughout the Test series and today; it's always nice to play under pressure.
"It was a very important series for us and we didn't want to go down here," he added. "It's always hard to play here, England know the conditions really well. For a very brief moment after Southampton we had a chance to win the series but we had a couple of ODIs in row where we just weren't up for it and didn't play good cricket. But the fact we came back here and played good cricket, I'm very proud of the boys."
Cook was a far more frustrated captain after watching the batting line-up subside for 182 to a collection of poor shots in a performance that he had not seen the like of before.
"We're clearly very frustrated and disappointed - especially with the manner of the dismissals," he said. "I don't think I've played in a game where we've given away so many dismissals before. These things can happen. It's very frustrating when it does happen to you, especially in a series that's there to win.
"All of us, from one to 11, just played some pretty poor shots. I don't know why. As a side, our real challenge has always been to be as consistent as we can. We've made huge strides at that. But there's always that performance in there, which we're trying to eradicate."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo