South Africa captain AB de Villiers has expressed his disappointment at the "soft dismissals" from his batsmen that let Australia back into the contest in the fourth match of the tri-series in St Kitts. Chasing 289 for victory South Africa appeared to be cruising at the 25-over mark, when they had 137 for 1, but the innings fizzled out and they were dismissed for 252 in the 48th over.

All of the top five batsmen made starts but none made it past the 60s. Hashim Amla drove straight to cover for 60, Faf du Plessis sliced one to point for 63, de Villiers was bowled when Josh Hazlewood found some reverse swing and JP Duminy pulled Adam Zampa tamely to deep midwicket, leaving too much work for South Africa's long tail.

"Lots of our dismissals were soft dismissals tonight, including my own," de Villiers said. "Those things are bad decisions at the wrong time. It's not really something you can work on. It's just something we have to fix in the next game with a better mindset ... The wicket played pretty well throughout the game. We've got no excuse, we just didn't bat well enough."

With the ball reversing, Australia had little trouble running through the South African lower order, collecting the last seven wickets for 42 runs in 10 overs. It was a tame end for South Africa after they enjoyed a 105-run stand between Amla and du Plessis. Playing his first game back from a finger injury, du Plessis was pleased with his touch but not with how he departed.

"We pretty much controlled the game in that second innings for about 80% of the time, with myself and Hashim and then myself and AB," du Plessis said. "To be honest, I thought that when myself and AB were batting it was pretty much in our hands. We felt in control.

"Obviously we knew Australia had to get wickets to get back in the game and they did that with some good bowling from Starcy at the tail-enders there. But I think we can point the finger straight back at ourselves - some pretty poor shots to give them wickets to get them back in the game."

Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa each picked up three wickets, but the difference in the match was the 109 scored by David Warner earlier in the day. He was the only man from either team who really capitalised on a start, and du Plessis said if one of South Africa's set batsmen had stayed in until the end, the result would have been different.

"It's one guy saying 'I'm going to win the game today' and putting his hand up," du Plessis said. "If you look at the best players in the world, it's guys that can do that more consistently, someone like Virat Kohli at the moment who is winning a lot of games of cricket for his country. Today we had three batsmen - myself, Hashim and AB - who could have done that."

It was notable, though, that the South African bowlers found virtually no reverse swing but Starc and Hazlewood got the ball to move just enough later in the day, enticing a few mistakes from South Africa's batsmen. Zampa also kept his head towards the end of the match and finished with 3 for 52 from his 10 overs.

"It's always hard to start against a ball that's reversing when you've got someone like Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood coming in at you," Australia's captain Steven Smith said. "I thought those guys did a terrific job when the ball started to go. I think we got five wickets in six overs at one point and that obviously turned the game.

"[Zampa] was good. I put him under a bit of pressure at the end there as well. I bowled him a few overs where they could have hit a few to these small straight boundaries. But he held his nerve nicely. He changed his pace, mixed it up, bowled some googlies and he's come a long way."