England were without the likes of Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes, men who may well have dug them out of the 20/6 hole they found themselves in within the first hour. By all accounts, the third rubber was an anti-climax as a contest, especially after the high-scoring thrillers that preceded it.
What will please South Africa no end is the manner of their fielding and catching – the polar opposite of the embarrassment of Southampton. Fittingly, Hashim Amla set the tone, plucking the struggling Jason Roy from a charging Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa’s speedster – enjoying his first outing at the ‘Home of Cricket’ in national colours – was on a hat-trick at one stage, and ended with figures of 4/39 in nine overs. He had long spoken of his excitement to play there for the first time and he would have left heartened by the experience.
Rabada was backed up by the returning Wayne Parnell and Keshav Maharaj, who both registered three scalps.
Maharaj was given a second outing because Imran Tahir is still nursing a tight hamstring, the same injury that felled David Miller in the course of the match.
Both are expected to be fit for Saturday’s opening fixture in the Champions Trophy against Sri Lanka. But, on Monday, the brief in the away dressing-room was to be slicker and more ruthless, and they encountered an English top-order that played as if they had plans for the Bank Holiday evening.
They flirted with anything outside off-stump, and the overcast conditions and the slope of Lord’s, accounted for them. Mind you, Rabada and company were also disciplined enough to keep hitting the same areas with the ball, which would have pleased skipper AB de Villiers.
Had it not been for a half-century by Jonny Bairstow, as well as handy contributions from David Willey (26) and debutant Toby Roland-Jones (37 not out), England may well have been trounced before lunch.
South Africa were all over them, and only some loose bowling in the middle overs allowed the hosts to go beyond 100. Rabada returned, along with Maharaj to clean up and openers Amla (55) and Quinton de Kock (34) got South Africa most of the way home.
They wouldn’t have minded that JP Duminy got some time at the crease, the left-hander ending the match in the company of his skipper, as the Proteas strolled in by seven wickets with 127 balls to spare.
While it is hard to read too much in a clash that had lost much of its spark before a ball was bowled, there would have been a sigh of relief for South Africa. A win is always better than another defeat, especially on the eve of such a massive tournament.
What will really excite them is that Rabada has hit his straps, and is regularly in the wickets.
Even at the tender age of 22, the tearaway is the undoubted leader of the attack, and he will be immense at the death – and with the new ball.
All the batsmen in the side have shown some form, and the one concern left is the fitness of Tahir and Miller. They have the better part of a week to recover, before the preamble is done, and South Africa launch their latest campaign for glory.
They will see Lord’s later on in their trip, for the first Test in July. But, between now and then, there is a lot of cricket to be played, and they will hope that Monday’s visit to HQ has a domino effect that last for at least three weeks.