In their first assignment since last year's World Cup triumph, England tinkered with their line-up with a view towards the defence of their crown in 2023 and escaped with a 1-1 series draw against the Proteas.
Here, the PA news agency reflects on what has unfolded over the last week.
How did the series pan out?
In their first ODI since becoming world champions, an England side showing six changes from the one that overcame New Zealand in the Lord's final last July were simply outplayed by the Proteas and looked a little rusty in all facets as they crashed to a seven-wicket series opening defeat. Durban's washout left England needing a victory at Johannesburg, where they bowled excellently at a ground renowned for bloated totals to restrict South Africa to a below-par score. A middle order wobble almost saw the tourists crash out but they got over the line with two wickets and nearly seven overs to spare.
What were the differences from the World Cup?
By resting the tried and trusted Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, who was injured anyway, England tacitly admitted that this series was not at the top of their agenda. Stokes, Buttler and Wood will return for the three Twenty20s this week as England look to build momentum for this year's T20 World Cup in Australia. Captain Eoin Morgan revealed the ODIs were about expanding their talent pool, hence the selections of the uncapped trio of youngsters Tom Banton, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson, with immediate results taking a backseat.
How did the new boys get on?
Banton flickered in making 18 at Cape Town and 32 at Johannesburg but the 21-year-old is still awaiting his first significant score for England, who perhaps undersold the big-hitting batsman by slotting him at six – he is used to opening. Lancashire leg-spinner Parkinson was ineffective at Newlands and Durban and was replaced by the more senior Adil Rashid at the Wanderers, where county team-mate Mahmood made his ODI bow and bowled immaculately in taking one for 17 in five overs in a sensational opening burst. He then strangely did not feature for the rest of the innings.
Anything else to report?
The selection of Joe Denly seemed at odds with England's policy of bringing youth through to supplement the established players. The 33-year-old went a long way to justifying his inclusion – in Stokes' usual position of five – with two important half-centuries in as many innings. However, he was unable to see England over the line at Johannesburg, where his dismissal sparked a collapse that saw England lose four quick wickets before Moeen Ali eventually got them over the line.
How important was the return of Moeen and Rashid in the final ODI?
Very. Rashid nursed a shoulder injury at last year's World Cup but looked more like his old self at the Bullring after replacing Parkinson, going through his repertoire and bamboozling a number of Proteas batsmen. A return of three for 51 felt like scant reward – he could have had a five-for. His comeback to the ODI fold and that of Moeen, who took a tidy one for 42 before contributing 17 not out to help England creep over the line, proves there is no substitute for experience. Without the World Cup-winning spinners, England in all likelihood would not have squared the series.
How did everybody fare?
Jason Roy 6 (out of 10), Jonny Bairstow 7, Joe Root 6, Eoin Morgan 5, Joe Denly 7, Tom Banton 6, Sam Curran 5, Chris Woakes 6, Tom Curran 6, Chris Jordan 5, Matt Parkinson 5, Adil Rashid 7, Moeen Ali 7, Saqib Mahmood 7.
South Africa v England, First Twenty20 at East London on Wednesday at 6pm local time (4pm GMT).