There was no fairytale finish for Ben Stokes in the final ODI of the England star's career on Tuesday as the all-rounder was dismissed for just five and South Africa won by six wickets.
Stokes made the bombshell announcement on Monday that he was retiring from one-day cricket, citing his inability to full commit to all three forms of the game.
His 105th and final ODI appearance on Tuesday was not one he will remember fondly, bowling five wicketless overs for 44 runs before being dismissed lbw for just five.
He then received a standing ovation from a sell-out crowd as he made his way from the field, raising his bat in acknowledgement to the fans.
Having lost four of their six games against India this month, England's white-ball woes under new captain Jos Buttler continued as Rassie van der Dussen's career-best 134 set the stage for a heavy defeat.
"We are used to the heat but it was quite dry and windy as well today," Van der Dussen said at the post-match presentation.
"We batted well and our bowlers executed beautifully. We knew we had to play smart cricket, we are happy with the performance but we will see where we can improve."
After asking the hosts to field in 37-degree heat, the Proteas made 5-333 - their highest-ever total on English soil.
Van der Dussen shared century stands with Janneman Malan (57) and Aiden Markram (77).
England were all out for 271 in response, with Joe Root's 86 a classy but ultimately inconsequential footnote.
Openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow put on 102 to get England's chase up and running but Roy holed out off Maharaj for 43 and Bairstow was lbw for 63 sweeping Markram.
That brought Stokes to the crease for his last ODI stand to a rousing reception that would be repeated 11 balls later as he made the return journey to the pavilion.
Fans were left gutted that Stokes was dismissed so cheaply in his farewell.
Cricket failed its players so long ago that Ben Stokes’ retirement from ODI cricket cannot be considered a massive surprise. He knew the sport would continue to flog him until he had nothing left. Such a sad state of affairs. https://t.co/K6nAnAWRJi
— Nick Howson (@NickHowson) July 19, 2022
England won the WC because for 4 years they all contributed hugely to the team ethos .. But let’s be honest it was @benstokes38 heroics that got them over the line in the final .. Sad at 31 to be retiring but what a legend .. #Stokes
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) July 19, 2022
Ben stokes 💔💔💔💔💔🥺😭..A sad end to his odi career 💔💔…#ENGvSA
— 🃏❤️ ♔ 𝒜ℒℒℰℰ𝒴 ♡. ❤️𝕊𝕋𝔸ℕ ℝ𝕌𝔹𝔸𝔹 💔🙂 (@Allleey31) July 19, 2022
— delash (@delash) July 19, 2022
Legend You will be missed in ODI format 😞
— Himanshu Raj (@imhimanshuraj27) July 19, 2022
Ben Stokes explains decision to retire from ODI cricket
Stokes finishes as one of just three players to score 2500 or more runs and take 50-plus wickets in men's ODIs for England (2924 runs, 74 wickets), alongside Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff.
His match-winning knock of 84 not out in the 50-over World Cup final against New Zealand in 2019, which saw England win in a Super Over, will remain his crowning moment in the format.
"From myself and all England fans, we want to say thank you for everything he has done in this form of the game," Buttler told BBC Test Match Special.
"I know three years ago will live long in the memory but every day he turns up for this team, he puts in 100 per cent. He's been a fantastic ambassador for us in ODI cricket and we'll miss him."
Speaking before the match, Stokes said: “I just feel like there is too much cricket rammed in for people to play all three formats now.
“It is a lot harder than it used to be. The more cricket that is played the better for the sport, but you want a product that is of the highest quality.
“It isn’t just me or us. You see it all around the world now where teams are having to rest some players in a certain series so they feel like they are getting a break.
"We are not cars where you can fill us up with petrol and let us go. It has an effect on you, the playing, the travel, it does add up.”
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