AB de Villiers acknowledged South Africa could have few complaints after they slumped to another defeat at the hands of England in Port Elizabeth.
Alex Hales' 99 and a late cameo from the in-form Jos Buttler ensured the tourists, who won the preceding Test series 2-1, completed a five-wicket triumph to move 2-0 up in the five-match one-day international rubber.
South Africa were ultimately punished for a sluggish finish to their innings, with only 57 runs added following De Villiers' departure for 73 in the 41st over.
"I felt we were about 20 short," said the home captain, who fell victim to an excellent catch in the deep for a second successive match, at the post-match presentation.
"Personally I didn't hit it as well as I would have liked to. I tried to pick it up and unfortunately got out.
"[A score of] 290-300 would have been ideal. [It was] still a competitive total and you've got to give credit to the opposition - they out-thought us in most areas."
England threatened to give up a position of strength and were still 61 runs from victory with five wickets down when Hales fell one short of a century for the second time in his international career.
However, Buttler showed the confidence of a batsman boasting hundreds in each of his last two ODIs, racing to 48 not out from 28 balls with the aid of three successive sixes off Imran Tahir.
De Villiers added: "Jos Buttler once again took it away from us - he played an exceptional knock, he's in great form.
"I thought they managed the game well up front and set it up for Jos.
"We were outplayed and we've got our backs against the wall here, but we've been in situations like this before and I'm expecting the boys to come back from this."