Tristan Stubbs announced himself onto the international stage with a thrilling 72 (28), but the Proteas lost the opening T20 against England on Wednesday night with a woeful bowling performance.
England hit 20 sixes in 20 overs, thrashing the South Africans to all parts of Bristol in first posting 234/6 before claiming a 41-run win.
SCOREBOARD - England v SA - 1st T20
Stubbs, batting for his country for the first time, blasted 8 sixes and 2 fours of his own, single-handedly keeping the Proteas in with a chance until he finally fell.
It was a stunning display of power hitting, with the 21-year-old Stubbs also showing a vast array of shot making ability and superb timing.
There was also a lively knock of 57 (33) from opener Reeza Hendricks, but by then the damage had been done.
It was a nightmare outing in the field for South Africa, who won the toss and opted to bowl first under stand-in captain David Miller.
Very little, if anything, went well for them from there with the ball.
They dropped Jonny Bairstow (90 off 53) three times after Jos Buttler (22 off 7) had gotten the hosts off to a lightning start.
Dawid Malan (43 off 23) kept the England juggernaut rolling before a blistering 52 (18) from Moeen Ali provided the knockout punch.
It was a particularly small ground, but not even that could detract from a Proteas bowling and fielding performance that ultimately lost them game long before Quinton de Kock and Hendricks had even walked out to the middle to start the run chase.
It was England's second-highest score in T20s, and by the time they were done, the Proteas were staggering around the park like 11 boxers who should have been hauled out of the contest long before.
It was that ugly.
There was the hollowest of five-fors for the always smiling Lungi Ngidi (5/39 in 4), but for others, this was a day from cricketing hell.
Tabraiz Shamsi (0/49 in 3) and Andile Phehlukwayo (1/63 in 4) were hurt particularly badly, to the point where Miller entrusted an over to part-time Tristan Stubbs.
That didn't work, either, with Stubbs travelling for 20 in his six balls.
The Proteas were then dealt a killer blow in one Reece Topley over - the second of the innings - when De Kock (2 off 4) and the returning Rilee Rossouw (4 off 4) were dismissed within the space of five balls.
For Rossouw, who was playing his first international in nearly six years, it was a poor performance after he had also dropped a routine chance in the outfield during England's onslaught.
Hendricks continued with his sparkling innings, but it was Stubbs who would steal the show.
South Africa, at 150/5, were technically ahead of England after 15 overs. But in the end, logic prevailed, and the wheels coming off at the back-end of their bowling effort came back to haunt the Proteas.
The second T20 takes place on Thursday in Cardiff.
Scores in brief:
England 234/6 (Bairstow 90, Ali 52, Ngidi 5/39)
SA 193/8 (Stubbs 72, Hendricks 57, Gleeson 3/51)
England won by 41 runs