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A blazing 57-ball 78 by tailender Isuru Udana could not prevent another heavy defeat for Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI against South Africa at St George's Park.

Batting at number nine, Udana scored 78 in a Sri Lankan total of 189. But it wasn’t enough for his side as South Africa cruised to a six-wicket win and a 4-0 lead in the series.

Sri Lankan captain Lasith Malinga lamented the failure of the top-order batsmen.

"This wicket is very suitable to the bat," he said. "They (the batsmen) didn't realise their value and take the opportunity to play a long innings."

Quinton de Kock hammered his fifth successive ODI half-century for South Africa, making 51 before he became one of three victims for off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva.

Udana apart, it was a dismal batting performance by Sri Lanka, marked by soft dismissals, with none softer than the run-out of Malinga.

Sri Lanka have now lost all eight ODIs under Malinga's captaincy and the veteran was dismissed in almost embarrassing circumstances.

Batting at number ten, he tapped the ball to midwicket but not only did he fail to sprint in attempting a single but his bat was in the air when a throw from Reeza Hendricks hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end.

Sri Lanka were 131 for nine when Malinga was caught short of his crease but Udana smashed 55 runs in a 58-run last-wicket partnership with Kasun Rajitha.

Nortje, playing in his third ODI, was one of the main destroyers of the Sri Lankan top order, taking three for 19 in his first spell of six overs. But he conceded 38 runs, 37 of them to Udana, in his last two overs.

Sri Lanka's decision to open the bowling with the spin of De Silva paid off with the early wicket of Reeza Hendricks but De Kock and the recalled Aiden Markram (29) set South Africa well on the way to victory with a second-wicket stand of 56 off 63 balls.

Captain Faf du Plessis made 43 before David Miller and JP Duminy, the latter returning from a long-term injury, closed out the match with an unbeaten 44-run stand.