After two excellent performances to wrap up the three-match ODI series, England looked a shadow of themselves as they compiled a dire display against South Africa at Lords.
Problems at the top
It was almost as if the hosts forgot how to play in typical British weather at the Home of Cricket. Playing below overcast conditions, England's upper order could not deal with a swinging ball bouncing across the famous sloped wicket at Lords.
Up until this contest, England looked in fine fickle before the ICC Champions Trophy that begins in less than a week. Their only real concern was the form of opener Jason Roy and he would not have inspired the nation with confidence after another anti-climax.
Roy has only reached double figures once in his last five ODI's and missed out for the third consecutive game against South Africa. After playing a beautifully timed flick off his pads to get off the mark, the opener inexplicably prodded at a length delivery from Kagiso Rabada that edged straight to Hashim Amla at first slip.
The opening partnership is something that will have to improve if England are to be successful in the ICC Champions Trophy, recording the lowest average score in recent years of any of the teams involved.
Bairstow provides an element of respect as teammates fail to read the conditions
Roy's dismissal was to create a pattern of events for the next four overs as four of the following five wickets fell in similar fashion. Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid all departed for single figures after being caught behind when prodding, poking or lashing at good length deliveries. Only Joe Root was to buck the trend when he was dismissed by two after Wayne Parnell trapped him LBW.
At 20-6 for five overs, England were crying out for a partnership. They eventually got one that steadied the ship through the returning Jonny Bairstow and David Willey. The former came to the crease playing with a straighter defence than his teammates and supported Willey in a stand of 51.
After Willey departed, debutant Toby Roland-Jones came to the crease and provided the foil for Bairstow on his way to 51 through a variety of square shots. Roland-Jones made 37 not out as England recovered to a partially defendable total of 153. The damage had been done by Rabada (4-39) and Parnell (3-43) before spin bowler Keshav Maharaj (3-25) tidied up the tail.
Amla leads tourists to victory whilst creating history in the process
South Africa made light work of the run chase as the weather conditions improved. Playing his 150th match, Amla became the fastest batsman in ODI history to surpass 7,000 runs. Whilst England's openers have struggled, South Africa's have the best recent average of any nation and they set about their business again as Quinton de Kock supported Amla in a stand of 95.
After Amla cut a Roland-Jones delivery onto his own stumps following a knock of 55, England sparked a spell of success. Jake Ball found some swing as Lords clouded over and quickly dismissed de Kock and Faf du Plessis.
Yet the loss of three wickets for six runs was as bad as it got for the visitors before the experienced pairing of JP Duminy and AB de Villiers picked off the final 55 runs on route to a comfortable victory in just over half the allotted overs.