Jonny Bairstow helped to spare the embarrassment, but there proved no way back into the match after England crashed to 20 for six in the first five overs - the worst ever start to a one-day worldwide fixture.
"What cost us was the first hour in the morning with a lot of live grass on the wicket", he said.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers insisted his side had done nothing wrong after they found themselves caught up in a fresh ball-tampering row on Saturday as they lost their one-day worldwide series against England.
"But ultimately they have played in the fashion we have played as a team, and they have been very important to us".
South Africa, whose fielding was vastly improved from the defeats in Leeds and Southampton, then avoided a 3-0 whitewash by easing to the target with 21.1 overs to spare, for the loss of three wickets and with their innings interrupted by the interval.
Jonny Bairstow's brawny fifty: Bairstow, replacing Ben Stokes in the playing XI, came in as early as fourth over.With England lurking at 20 for 6, Bairstow took upon himself to resurrect the innings.
"I honestly think it was just a bad ball today. which happens sometimes, the leather comes off sometimes".
They might even be the most exciting team to watch in the tournament; has that ever been the case with an England ODI side?
The Proteas' performance in the ICC Champions Trophy will be vital, as they could be overtaken by either Australia or India if they lose all three of their league matches.
With the bat-friendly pitches likely to be on display across the Champions Trophy, efforts like this will encourage beleaguered bowlers and ensure that they remain composed and patient when trying to attack and contain the England top order. "A player like him, the score is always around the corner", he said.
Rabada was speaking after claiming the man of the match award in the third and final ODI against England at Lord's on Monday, the visitors beating their hosts by seven wickets.
"Every global is important so whether we're 2-0 up or 2-0 down we try and approach it with the same intensity‚" Domingo said.
"We have put in a lot this series but this was a hiccup", Morgan said.
The joint is not yet quite the topic of national conversation that Denis Compton's knee was when the England batting great was having injury problems in the 1950s and Durham star Stokes tried to play down concerns by saying Saturday: "It's just the bowling that's getting affected by my knee". "Batting and running around the field and everything like that is fine". "It's unfortunate that we didn't cross the line but I'm proud of the way we fought right until the end".