Ricky Ponting called Australia's performance in the heavy loss to South Africa the worst in a long time, but has vowed to improve for the third game in Cape Town on Thursday. The tourists were dismissed for 131 in 40.2 overs after starting the match by dropping to 5 for 19.

South Africa passed the target for the loss of three wickets and levelled the five-fixture contest that will determine the game's No. 1 side. "That was as bad as we've played in a long time," Ponting told AAP.

Ponting blamed poor shots for the tiny total, which was inflated by Callum Ferguson's 50 off 83 deliveries, his second ODI half-century. "We knew that the ball would probably swing a little bit this morning," Ponting said.

"It wasn't as if it was swinging around corners either. The wicket was very good. There were some poor shots today from the top-order players in particular and we exposed our middle order to the new ball."

Despite the significant defeat, which followed their 141-run win on Friday, Ponting said it was time to move on. "We've had one poor performance," he said. "We've got a few days to try to turn things around. I'm sure that you'll see a better team on Thursday."