De Villiers hundred completes comeback series win
South Africa 237 for 5 (de Villiers 101*, Amla 59, Topley 3-41) beat England 236 (Hales 112, Rabada 3-34, Wiese 3-50, Tahir 3-53) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
An outstanding, unbeaten century from AB de Villiers enabled South Africa to become just the fourth side to come from 2-0 down to win an ODI series after defeating England by five wickets in another enthralling, if error-strewn, match in Cape Town.
On a couple of occasions, first as Reece Topley claimed three wickets in nine deliveries and then as England's spinners provoked a hiccup in mid-innings, it seemed South Africa may buckle under the pressure of chasing their modest target in the fifth and final game.
But, in the end, the class of de Villiers, proved decisive. The South Africa captain, playing his 200th ODI, made a sparkling century - the 24th of his career - to lead his side to victory with 36 balls remaining and ensure they did not lose the ODI and Test portions of a home season to the same opposition for the first time since 2001-02.
It was not just de Villiers' extravagant ability to put away the poor ball that made the difference. It was his composure. In a match characterised by missed opportunities and reckless batting, de Villiers was one of the few to combine restraint with his natural positivity.
So while England were, for the second match in succession, bowled out within their 50 overs as punishment for some reckless batting, de Villiers attacked with discretion. And while Farhaan Behardien was lured into clubbing to mid-on and Rilee Rossouw, who replaced JP Duminy in the South Africa side, drove to short cover, de Villiers waited for the poor ball and was happy to play out a few dot balls safe in the knowledge that his side had plenty of time.
That result - both of the game and the series - represented scant reward for Alex Hales. After four half-centuries - including an innings of 99 at Port Elizabeth - in the first four matches of the series, Hales became the fifth England player to register five successive scores of 50 or more in ODI cricket. The previous four were Geoff Boycott, Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and Jonathan Trott. None of them had managed it in the same series.
Here Hales, with his second and highest ODI century, was the only man to reach 30 as England failed to exploit a frenetic display in the field from South Africa and failed to show the composure required on a pitch offering the bowlers some assistance. It helped Hales finish the series as the leading run-scorer on either side (he amassed 383 runs at an average of 76.60) but he lacked the support to earn England a commanding position.
The frustration, from an England perspective, will be that South Africa did not bowl especially well. With de Villiers winning an important toss - rain had kept the pitch under covers until about 30 minutes before the start of an overcast morning - the bowlers benefited from some assistance.
But instead of maintaining a tight off stump line and full length, they instead unleashed a barrage of short deliveries and struggled to maintain the tight line that might have brought them greater rewards. Chris Morris, while the quickest of the attack, also conceded four of the 11 wides.
Imran Tahir, introduced into the attack in just the fifth over, trapped Jason Roy - beaten a leg break that gripped and hit him on the back leg - with his sixth delivery, while Joe Root was unable to punish Hashim Amla for dropping him on 12 and was adjudged leg before, after a review, when he missed an attempted sweep against the same bowler. Eoin Morgan's modest series with the bat - he averaged 12.80 - ended when he gave himself room and could only edge a wide delivery outside off stump.
While Ben Stokes and Hales were putting on 70 in 11 overs, it appeared South Africa may have squandered their opportunity. But when Stokes, moving across his stumps, was bowled round his legs by Kagiso Rabada, it precipitated a decline that saw England lose five wickets for 37 runs in nine overs in mid-innings.
Jos Buttler, beautifully set up by a field that suggested a short ball, was slow to react to the full ball that followed from Rabada and played on, before Moeen Ali, attempting to hit over the top when the situation - with more than 15 overs remaining - required retrenchment, was brilliantly caught at cover. Chris Woakes chipped a half-volley outside leg stump directly to the fielder on the fine leg fence and Adil Rashid then attempted to clear the in field - an unnecessary risk with so much of the innings remaining - and gifted a simple catch to mid-off.
Not for the first time, the thought occurred that, for all England's admirable dynamism and boldness in recent times - and it is worth remembering that is exactly 12 months since they produced a timid performance in their opening match of the World Cup - it might prove rather more successful if it was allied to some common sense and match awareness.
On this surface, a total of 280 may well have proved enough, but in attempting to score 320, they left themselves requiring a miracle. They were, once again, the Blackjack player that keeps saying 'hit me' until they have a perfect 21. A more sophisticated approach may serve them better.
Hales, once again showing the maturity to complement his natural positivity, put away the wayward deliveries - and there were many - with customarily sweet timing to keep his side in the game. Strong off his legs, strong on the cut and pull, he also drove fluently. The on drive that brought up his century, a beautifully timed shot, was reminiscent of the stroke that brought Boycott his 100th hundred.
He enjoyed some fortune. He utilised a review, on 20, when umpire Johan Cloete thought he had edged a delivery off Morris - reward, as much as anything, for Hales persuading Roy not to squander the review on his leg-before dismissal - and reached his 50 with an inside edge that flew perilously close to the stumps on its way to the fine leg boundary. Twice more he was slightly late on yorkers, but got enough bat on the ball to squirt the ball past the stumps or slips.
Within eight overs of the South Africa reply Topley had three wickets and South Africa were 22 for 3. Quinton de Kock was caught behind - England reviewing a decision that was originally given as not out - before Faf du Plessis was beaten by a beautiful inswinging yorker first ball and Rossouw mistimed a slower ball to cover.
But first with Amla and then with David Wiese, who took the pressure off his captain with a thumping 41 off 32 balls, de Villiers kept his head when all others were losing theirs and saw his side to a victory that should restore some confidence going into the T20I section of the tour and the World T20 that follows.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo