This may have been a dead rubber given the 2-0 lead Eoin Morgan's team established in the first two matches of the series, but it was not the way England, who were on a run of eight successive ODI victories, wanted to warm-up for a tournament they are supposed to be the favourites to win. "There was something there for the bowlers today that all of us could capitalise", said Rabada.
Two wickets in four balls briefly put South Africa on the back foot - Amla dragging Roland-Jones on shortly after posting his 33rd fifty and De Kock yorked by Jake Ball.
At 20-6 for five overs, England were crying out for a partnership. Rabada struck with just the fifth ball of the match when Jason Roy edged to Amla at first slip.
That allowed Jonny Bairstow to compile an excellent 51 off 67 balls.
Bairstow was joined by Roland-Jones, however, and steered England into three figures and himself to 50 with a sweep off Maharaj for his eighth boundary, but he was soon stumped on the charge as the slow left-armer found a touch of spin. "We have two hard matches straight up against Australia and England and if we don't start well the tournament's over".
England were immediately up against it as Rabada and Parnell exploited conditions expertly with the new ball, and counter-attacking intent backfired alarmingly.
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Up to that point, Alex Hales had faced just one ball as the carnage unfolded at the other end but a loose drive shot offered up another catch for Amla, who made no mistake after a wobbly fielding display in Southampton.
It was the start of a brilliant over that yielded three wickets in five balls.
Despite losing three wickets at 101, Duminy and captain AB de Villiers took South Africa home easily.
England had a brief flicker of hope as Ball forced Du Plessis to edge behind, but unlike the hosts, South Africa weathered the storm.
Trevor Bayliss said England were set for an "interesting" selection meeting after they suffered an emphatic defeat at the hands of South Africa in the final ODI at Lord's. And with Bairstow continuing his fine run of form with another half-century - his third in his four most recent ODI innings - there might be a temptation to bring him into the side in place of Roy.
Thereafter Bairstow and Willey steadied things before the latter slapped Parnell to cover on 26, his highest ODI score.
Bairstow has staked a strong claim for a regular place in the line-up with three half-centuries in his last four innings and, since the World Cup, has lifted his average by nearly 85 per cent and his strike rate by 22 per cent.