South Africa 317 (Kallis 83, Amla 62, Afridi 2-59) beat Pakistan 260 (Akmal 60, Hafeez 59, Kallis 3-30) by 57 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
After slugging it out for four games South Africa finally delivered the knock-out punch in the deciding, fifth one-day international to consign Pakistan to a 3-2 series loss in Dubai.
Twice South Africa have faltered and allowed Pakistan back into the series but this time Jacques Kallis's allround prowess - first making 83 to help set an imposing 317 and then taking three crucial wickets - helped seal a comprehensive 57-run win.
What looked like just another one-day series played out to anonymity in the desert after the opening match, developed into a classic tussle as two flawed, vastly contrasting sides could not be separated until the last.
Pakistan's preparation for the finale could not have been more chaotic as their wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider disappeared on the morning of the match, setting off to London in a cloud of mystery. Crisis is hardwired into Pakistan cricket but even by their standards this was bizarre.
Given the circumstances most other teams would have crumbled and though Pakistan managed to compete they were under pressure from the off as fifties from Hashim Amla, Kallis and AB de Villiers laid the foundations for a late surge from JP Duminy that carried South Africa to 317 and out of sight.
The Pakistan openers did their best to set up a contest before Kallis ripped through the top order, taking three wickets in as many overs, to leave Pakistan with a mountain to climb. Despite a characteristic flurry from Shahid Afridi and a well-crafted 60 from Umar Akmal, who also kept wicket in Haider's absence, Pakistan never quite threatened to pull off a mammoth chase.
Credit must go to Kallis but the tone was set, as per usual, by Amla. He continued his phenomenal run of form with a boundary-leaden half-century. All season he has shown one-day batting extends beyond barrel-chested power and he passed 1000 ODI runs for the calendar year as he punished Pakistan's new-ball pairing and raced to fifty from 33 balls.
If Amla's style is poetic, Kallis is altogether more prosaic. Happy to ease along in the slipstream he collected singles and doubles with ease and after Amla's dismissal, chipping tamely to long-off, he shared a 121-run stand with de Villiers.
Neither de Villiers nor Kallis were particularly expansive but they barely raised a sweat as the waltzed along close to a run a ball. Abdur Rehman did his best to check the rate with an impressive spell of brisk, accurate left-arm spin but at 219 for 2 in the 38th over, Pakistan were staring down the barrel.
They recovered, momentarily, with three wickets for nine runs in 14 deliveries as South Africa ignored the Batting Powerplay and lost both set batsmen, and Colin Ingram in a hurry. Yet, just as Pakistan's fortunes looked to have picked up JP Duminy found his best range to crown the innings with a flourish.
Sixty-four runs came off the last five overs as Duminy laid into the wheezing Shoaib Akhtar and Wahab Riaz. Duminy looks to have recovered his poise this season after a chastening experience last year and will be a key man in similar conditions at the World Cup.
The chase always looked out of reach but Pakistan were gifted an enterprising start by Shahzaib Hasan and Mohammad Hafeez, who added 81 in the opening 12 overs. It was Pakistan's best opening stand of the series and South Africa were visibly relieved when Kallis burst through.
After being taken for 11 in his opening over Kallis struck in each of his next three. First Shahzaib skewed a drive to find Morkel at mid-on, before Younis Khan gloved a short ball down the leg side.
If his wicket magnified the difficulty of Pakistan's task Mohammad Yousuf's tame fall two overs later rammed home South Africa's advantage. Yousuf only landed in Dubai yesterday but replaced Asad Shafiq at No. 4 and duly fell quickly, guiding a length ball off the face to de Villiers.
The slide continued when Fawad Alam feathered a rapid short ball from Steyn to fall for 1. In all four wickets had fallen for 19 runs in 33 balls to rip the stuffing out of Pakistan's reinforced middle order.
After Hafeez fell shortly after reaching his half-century Afridi and Akmal briefly threatened a recovery. The required rate had climbed but both found the boundary regularly enough to keep South Africa on edge until Afridi ran down the wicket, and straight past a flighted delivery from Robin Peterson to give de Villiers his first stumping in ODI cricket.
Peterson came into the side in place of the big-hitting David Miller and justified his selection with an impressive display of left-arm spin. Twice he beat Afridi early on before nailing his man for 24. Together with Abdul Razzak, Akmal tried to engineer a miracle but slapped a Steyn full toss straight to Smith at cover to all but end the resistance.
Fittingly it was Peterson who finished the job, castling Shoaib to leave Pakistan still in search of a ODI series win against South Africa.
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo