Pakistan capitalised on an ill-fitted and unbalanced Proteas unit and made heavy weather of a three-wicket win in the fourth T20 at SuperSport Park on Friday.
SCORECARD | Proteas v Pakistan, 4th T20
The victory meant Pakistan not only won the T20 series 3-1 but completed a rare limited-overs double over the beleaguered hosts.
A Proteas line-up featuring only four bonafide batsmen, which was overcompensation in response to Wednesday's leather-chasing third T20 to bolster the bowling, collapsed to 144 all out in 19.3 overs.
It was a total that shouldn't have troubled Pakistan, but lazy batting and belated bowling effort made the game far tighter than it should have been.
While the Proteas think-tank would do well to furrow down the well-worn experimentation path, it can't go unnoticed that the Proteas have lost a cumulative seven-match series 5-2 after losing the February rubber in Pakistan 2-1.
For Mark Boucher, panic buttons may have to be pressed, especially in the shortest format. He's yet to win a T20 series in his two years in charge.
Under his tutelage and an assortment of players at his disposal, the Proteas have lost 12 out of 16 T20s.
Granted, Indian Premier League-bound players were missing from this series, but in other series, they were available, and they still did not win.
Boucher may have an idea of what his best 11 may look like and some of it may come from the ruins of this series.
However, his coaching credentials, especially when it comes to younger players and his judgment of form and team composition, must be scrutinised.
That Pakistan struggled to the middling target was down to complacency, especially after their flying start.
They lost Mohammad Rizwan (0) to Bjorn Fortuin (1/26) in the first over, but a 91-run partnership in nine overs between Babar Azam (24) and Fakhar Zaman (60) put the total into perspective.
Zaman powered his way to a 27-ball 50 with three fours and four sixes, but when he and Azam fell within three balls of each other to Lizaad Williams (2/39), there was a slight wobble at 98/3.
Haider Ali (3) and Mohammad Hafeez (10) failed to capitalise on the start when they fell to Tabraiz Shamsi (1/21) and Andile Phehlukwayo (1/11) respectively to leave Pakistan at 110/5 in the 14th over.
When the misfiring Asif Ali (5) spooned a return catch to Sisanda Magala (2/33), 115/6 in the 15th over allowed SA back into the game.
The further loss of Faheem Ashraf to Magala in the 19th over left Pakistan in an unnecessarily tight position of 129/7, but Magala overstepping twice, then being hit for six by Mohammad Nawaz (25*) left Pakistan with seven to get from the last over.
Williams was tight, but his fifth-ball was clouted for six by Nawaz to end proceedings. Collapses have been generally the reserve of the Test team, but the T20 side showed they weren't immune to rapid wicket loss.
The loss of eight wickets for 32 runs is a galling collapse, regardless of the team's makeup.
Admittedly, a batting order with George Linde at number five was always going to be susceptible in the event of a top-order stumble.
Those have been rare in this series, and even though Markram's dreamy run of form ended in the third over when Mohammad Nawaz (1/40) trapped him in front, there wasn't any indication of what would take place later in the innings.
When Janneman Malan (33) and Rassie van der Dussen (52) partnered for a 57-run, second-wicket stand, there was a semblance of normalcy in what turned out to be the high point of the innings.
Hard running was complemented with neat stroke play that saw South Africa reach the relative safety of 53/1 after the powerplay. When Malan holed out to Zaman at mid-off off Faheem Ashraf (3/17), the skids were slowly applied despite a 26-ball, 36-run third-wicket stand between Heinrich Klaasen (9) and Van der Dussen.
Klaasen was again constrained in his 12-ball knock and when he picked out Shaheen Shah Afridi (1/19) at mid-wicket off Ashraf, 109/3 in the 13th over was a tenuous position.
Four balls later, Van der Dussen then picked out Mohammad Hafeez at deep mid-wicket of Haris Rauf (2/18), and the cat was well and truly among the pigeons.
Linde (3), Mulder (6), and Phehlukwayo (1) all trooped back to the dressing room in quick succession as the Proteas slid from 112/4 to 122/7.
Pockets of resistance from Magala (7), Fortuin (8) and Williams (2*) helped pushed the total past 140 for some respectability. Hassan Ali (3/40) also aided with the carving up of the flaky middle order.
However, it was always going to be inadequate, despite the late bowling rally.