The perfect relay race is a finely tuned combination of speed, skill and strategy - swift changeovers, sustained pace, the right runners at the right leg and ruthlessness in heaps. In the series decider against India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, South Africa ran something of an equivalent to it.

They weren't without help - India's short-length strategy, their errors in the field, a belter of a track, a quick outfield and short boundaries - but no matter how perfect the conditions, the race still needs to be run and South Africa did that after opting to bat first on Sunday.

Finding the right men for the job, specially in a batting line-up with their quality was never an issue. They've shuffled their batting around in this series, once to coax David Miller back to form, and another forced by JP Duminy's injury - but the batsmen who scored the centuries today have all been in form in this series.

Their problems, in Indore, Rajkot and Chennai, lay with their struggles on a slow pitch and a tendency to lose wickets in clumps. None of that was on display in Mumbai - the aggression kept building up with Quinton de Kock, then Faf du Plessis before that final, characteristic burst from AB de Villiers that left an already struggling Indian bowling line-up's plans in rubble.

For a while, at the start, it seemed like Hashim Amla would finally get among the runs that he has been aiming for in this series. He took a liking to Mohit Sharma's troubles at finding a good length straightaway, taking five boundaries off Mohit, before edging one behind. Almost effortlessly, de Kock took charge, much like he and du Plessis had done in Rajkot when they added 118 runs.

India brought on spin, in the form of Harbhajan Singh, in the seventh over. By the 10th over, there was spin at both ends. It didn't work. This wasn't a turning track, and the spinners had little assistance.

Harbhajan did manage to catch de Kock off balance a couple of times early on, but the other spinners weren't as tight. As his spell wore on, de Kock had the measure of the bowler - the manner in which he adjusted at the last minute while playing a cut to third-man off Harbhajan in the 19th over was evidence of that. Sixty-four of his 109 came against India's lead spinners, each at better than a run-a-ball.

A lot of talk in this series has revolved around the kind of impact new ODI rules have had on slow, turning tracks and in conditions where the ball gets old quickly. The unspoken assumption, of course, is that your bowlers can actually produce the lines and lengths you need in the conditions you face. India did not do that today and Dhoni didn't hold back on the admission of the side's shortcomings.

Dhoni stated that on a track like the one at Wankhede, India's seamers and the short-ball strategy broke down because the pacers couldn't hit the deck hard enough. As South Africa accelerated, it got that much harder to control them.

With de Kock humming at one end, du Plessis was happy to keep turning the strike around, acknowledging the risk of two batsmen simultaneously going ballistic. Before this game, du Plessis had crossed the 50-run mark in three out of four matches, but that consistency didn't quite match the high expectations he had of himself. Before the Rajkot ODI, he had stressed how he wanted to bat longer, to bat better, to build a more substantial innings. He picked an opportune time for it.

The heat affected du Plessis, and he struggled more and more as the innings progressed, but it was his stability and control over India's frontline spinners and the part-timers that allowed de Kock and de Villiers the luxury of their big shots. He pushed himself almost to breaking point - to a situation where every six that he hit was followed by the sight of him crumbling awkwardly to the ground with cramps.

And then there was de Villiers, who raced to his third hundred in the series. He's hardly the kind of batsman to walk away from a platform like 187 for 2 in the 27th over. His tally of sixes - some of them mistimed, and top-edged - may not have shot up to 11 at another ground, but this innings wasn't just about the hitting.

De Villiers later said that when he came to the crease, and as his stand with du Plessis grew, he often had to hold himself back from playing aggressive shots. The reason, he said, was that he didn't want to leave a tiring du Plessis with the task of shepherding the finish. That was his job, and he switched gears seamlessly once Du Plessis had walked off due to the cramp.

The captain was batting on 79, and South Africa on 351 for 2, when David Miller joined him at the crease and India's bowlers could do nothing but watch. When he fell three overs later, South Africa were 399 for 3 and on their way to securing their first ever bilateral ODI series win in India.