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Jos Buttler says Quinton de Kock was the difference as England fall short against South Africa

Jos Buttler admitted England fell short with the bat as a narrow defeat to South Africa in St Lucia halted their growing momentum at the T20 World Cup.

The reigning champions were close to their best on Wednesday against the West Indies, breezing a target of 181 with eight wickets and 15 deliveries in hand, but followed up with a seven-run loss as their attacking instincts eluded them.

Asked to chase 164 at the same venue by the Proteas less than 48 hours later, they would have strongly fancied their chances of landing a fourth straight victory — and the semi-final place that would almost certainly have come with it.

But England struggled to get on top of a slightly trickier surface, falling well behind the required rate before a late rally from Harry Brook (53) and Liam Livingstone (33) took them close.

England's top order made heavy weather of their work, scoring just three fours and one six in the first 11 overs of their chase.

Earlier, player-of-the-match Quinton de Kock had showed his dominant side with four sixes and three fours on his own in the first six overs.

"I'd say it was lost in the powerplay. Quinton came out and played with really good intent and we couldn't really match that," said Buttler.

"(Early boundaries) that's the difference in the game. The way Quinny played at the top really put us under a lot of pressure, he played some great shots and we were unable to do that.

"It's the best time to score but we couldn't quite maximise that when it was our turn and he certainly did."

All is far from lost for England, who finish a run of three Super 8 games in five days against the United States in Barbados on Sunday.

A win would be enough to carry them through if South Africa maintain their unbeaten streak and defeat the West Indies later that night.

A heavy enough victory to nudge their net run-rate in front of the Proteas would make their position watertight.

"We've just got to win our next game," said Buttler. "We're still in it and we're looking ahead to the next one.

"We haven't played them before so it'll be a good challenge and we're looking forward to it. The games come thick and fast now so we‘ve got to dust ourselves down and go again.

"The bigger picture is net run rate but that was an awesome partnership. We just couldn‘t finish it off."

Brook came with a few strikes of producing a magnificent turnaround, at one stage turning an equation of 103 from 58 balls into 25 from 18.

He was on strike for Anrich Nortje's decisive final over, requiring 14, only to be caught by an outrageous over-the-shoulder effort from South Africa captain Aiden Markram.

"It was a great catch and that's what South Africa have prided themselves on over a long period of time," reflected Buttler.

"They've always had great fielders, you think of Jonty Rhodes, Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers. They've always been a great fielding team."

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