In a one-day series dominated by bowlers, two batsmen in particular stood out. AB de Villiers led the run scoring and Martin Guptill recovered from a hamstring injury to play perhaps his best innings. But neither of them will feature in the upcoming three-Test series between their two countries, albeit for different reasons.
De Villiers has opted out of the series - and most of Test cricket for 2017 - as part of a workload management program while Guptill has not been selected despite his finding form, after he lost his Test place late last year, and the contest may be poorer without them.
"Anybody, any coach, would want AB de Villiers in their side but he has made a decision and we respect that decision," Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach, said. "He plays such a lot of cricket around the world, at such a high level all the time and he has got a young family so you can understand those decisions. We all definitely wanted him to stay but it's a decision he has made for family life."
De Villiers, who has had lengthy breaks over the last eight months with an elbow problem, appeared close to his best in the last three weeks. His 262 runs came at 87.33 and included two half-centuries but that was not enough to change his mind about his Test hiatus. "I can't wait to get home. I am really looking forward to get to my family. A three-week tour works really well. A couple of weeks at home before more cricket starts again is coming at a great time for me," de Villiers said. "I will really miss the boys and I will watch the cricket but it's a great time for me to get back and rest the mind."
He will have the next few weeks off before joining up with the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL and then reuniting with his national team-mates as they prepare for the Champions Trophy - a tournament de Villiers "believes in my heart" they can win. Even if they don't, he will see the competition as a valuable marker for his ultimate goal of lifting the 2019 World Cup, which will take priority over all other cricket for now. "He needs to freshen up and he needs to try and win the World Cup in 2019 - that's a big ambition for him. It's his decision and we respect it," Domingo said.
Without de Villiers, South Africa have already won three Test series, against New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka, and although they will miss their star batsman, Domingo is confident they can cope without him "We know when he is here, he gives absolutely everything, there's no doubt about it. He will be missed but we've gone through a series against Sri Lanka and a series in Australia without him so the game goes on. As good as anyone is, the game goes on," Domingo said. "Somebody will in time get to de Villiers' level. When that is we don't know, but someone will get there at some stage."
South Africa's Test middle-order is made up of JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock with Theunis de Bruyn included as a reserve batsmen. Of those, only Bavuma has struggled of late but he found some form domestically during February with two fifties in his last four matches.
Those numbers pale in comparison to Guptill's but he was never going to be considered for a Test recall after being dropped at the start of the season, so while the unbeaten 180 reignited the debate the decision had been made. New Zealand coach Mike Hesson explained Guptill could be tried in the middle-order, where Henry Nicholls is currently establishing himself, but will first have to stake his claim in domestic cricket with Auckland.
Guptill had a reputation for being loose outside the off stump and, as a result, is a favourite for the South Africa attack. In Tests, no bowler has dismissed him more than the absent Dale Steyn (six times in seven matches) and Vernon Philander is encroaching on that, having accounted for Guptill four times in six matches. Guptill has only scored one fifty against South Africa in 13 Tests innings but his two ODI hundreds - coming in the space of three innings - and one T20 century have served as enough warning of what he can do. Domingo was not complaining that they will not face him again over the next three weeks.
"You always feel maybe you can bowl to the rest of the guys [in one-day cricket] whereas Martin is a guy who can dominate you straight away. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will try and get themselves in but Martin is a guy who, from ball one, can take you apart," Domingo said. "He is a hell of a player and that was one of the best one-day hundreds I've seen. His ball striking is phenomenal. I know his Test record hasn't been as good as he would have hoped for but we always think a team without Martin Guptill is probably not the same."