Eoin Morgan praised his bowling unit but admitted it was "very disappointing" as England lost a Twenty20 international for the first time since May 2014 in dramatic circumstances at Newlands.
Chris Morris sneaked two off the final ball as Reece Topley fumbled Joe Root’s throw from long-off to give South Africa a three-wicket victory and inflict a first defeat in seven games on Morgan’s side in the sprint format.
That the tourists had taken it to the final over, never mind the last ball, was an achievement in itself as they posted a below-par 134 for eight on a tricky Cape Town surface, which offered some turn to the spinners and low bounce once the new ball began to wear.
Chris Jordan, who took 3-23, and Ben Stokes, who was unlucky to pick up just one wicket for 19 runs during a sensational spell in the middle overs, were particularly outstanding as South Africa stuttered over the line.
Having been behind the eight ball for most of the contest, England looked favourites when Jordan’s brilliant penultimate over left the hosts needing 15 from six balls.
But Morris, who broke England’s hearts in the fourth ODI to square the series, hit consecutive full-tosses from Topley for four and six before scampering a couple from the fifth and sixth balls of the over.
“Very disappointing; I think the fact that we got the game that close is a huge credit to our bowling unit,” Morgan told ecb.co.uk.
“It shows how far they’ve come, particularly on this tour as opposed to any others as we’ve played against a really strong batting line-up with not a lot on the board, so to make a game of it is a huge credit to our bowlers.
“The aggressive nature with which we go about our batting is similar to our bowling.
“I think we asked enough questions of the South African batsmen throughout the innings and we created chances, so having that mindset going out is quite crucial.”
The climax was harsh on the 21-year-old Topley, who had once again bowled with plenty of resolve at the start of the innings.
And Morgan has no qualms about the left-armer's ability to thrive on the international stage.
The England skipper added: “He has huge resolve; he’s a huge character in the changing room; he’ll be devastated about tonight but he’s 21-years-old, he hasn’t played a great deal of international cricket.
“I see him as having a huge amount of potential and I’ll be saying to him if we played a game like this tomorrow night, I’d have no worries giving him the ball again.
“I know he has the skills in the tank to deliver what we expect of him.”
England’s batting had failed to fire as South Africa came from two down to win the ODI series 3-2, and Morgan accepts there is still work to be done.
“I think we were 15 or 20 runs under par,” he continued.
“I think we didn’t adapt well enough to the wicket – we played on a wicket two days ago that was completely different and it’s not an excuse, it’s just it wasn’t an effort thing it was just an awareness thing about applying yourself on this particular surface.”
This was the second time England had come unstuck in the final over, and while Morgan acknowledged that close finishes provide plenty of entertainment, he is keen to ensure his side come out on the right side of them.
“We’ve been on the wrong side of it, which isn’t nice,” he added.
“It’s great to play in them, but it isn’t nice to lose them all the time.
“We’ve got to stick to our basics – I think if we’d nailed the basics tonight we might have got 15 or 20 more runs and we might have had a better day in the field.”