Alastair Cook defended the decision not to change England's batting order in response to South Africa's mammoth 241 for 6. England limped to an 84-run defeat with Cook, the stand-in captain, sharing an opening stand of 20 from 18 balls with Joe Denly.

Given the success of Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott in the first match, alongside the return of Kevin Pietersen, England had attacking options for the top-order, but Cook preferred the original line-up.

"There were thoughts of it, but we decided not to go with that," he said. "We got 200 the other day playing with that order, so we decided to stick with it. Unfortunately the big hits, we didn't hit them as cleanly as they did. In hindsight, we could have maybe changed it, but whether it would have changed the result I don't know, because 240 is a lot of runs."

Cook praised his opposing batsmen and suggested England weren't skilful enough to match them on the day. "It was not the result we wanted, they took the game away from us from the fourth or fifth over and from then on we were behind the eight-ball. I'm not sure if anyone has chased 240, we had the belief but we didn't have the skills today.

"It's always tough when you go round the park like that, it was great hitting and you have to give credit to the way they played. You can set a field but if you don't put the ball in the right place the margin on that wicket was very small."

Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, questioned England's approach and argued his side can take more out of the shared series than the tourists can. "I must say I was very surprised they didn't do that [change the order]. I thought they would certainly have used Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott at the top of the order with KP batting three.

"I think the emphatic way in which we won, I guess we come out of the weekend I think far better than England have. That's if it does count for anything down the line because we go into a different format [50-over one-day internationals]. But we probably do take a little more from it. I think we're probably a little more settled and a little more unpredictable."