Smith said his side had failed to deliver a knockout blow in two of the Tests [AFP]
Captain Graeme Smith praised South Africa for not running "out of puff" while his England counterpart Andrew Strauss said his team's defeat in the fourth and final Test in Johannesburg left a "bitter taste".

After letting a battling England off the hook in two of the previous three Tests, Smith said his team had been long overdue a win.

The hosts levelled the series at 1-1 after winning the match by an innings and 74 runs at the Wanderers on Sunday, bowling England out for 169 just before lunch on the fourth day to level the series at 1-1.

Fast bowler Morne Morkel ripped through England's middle-order with three wickets in six balls, and there was a wicket apiece for pacemen Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn.

Off-spinner JP Duminy delivered the finals blows, taking the last two wickets.

"We feel very happy and, if I'm honest, we could easily be sitting here 3-1 up. We just lacked the knockout blows in Centurion and Cape Town," Smith said.

"England showed great resilience and played very well in Durban but we've played the better cricket in three of the Tests.

"It could have been easy for us to run out of puff after the disappointment of Cape Town but I'm really proud of the way the guys played here. It would have been so easy to say we've come close twice and then not turn up here.

"But I think we were the hungrier team and we have a real drive to be better."

England escaped with draws from the first and third Tests with their last pair not out, while they won by an innings and 98 runs in Durban.

Strauss, who was dismissed by the first ball of the Test, blamed his team's downfall on the opening day of the match when they were bowled out for 180.

"It was three-and-a-half pretty frustrating days. When you lose four wickets in the first hour of a Test, it's always hard dragging it back and you have to give South Africa credit for not letting us back in," Strauss said.

"They kept the pressure on us after lunch on the first day and then were able to build a sizeable lead.

"We were below par and it was a disappointing end to what has been a very successful tour; we've definitely made improvements.

"Today does leave a bit of a bitter taste and we'll have to take the loss on the chin; it wasn't a very good performance."