England fast bowler Reece Topley has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a broken finger.
He is their leading wicket-taker, with eight in three matches, despite being left out for the first game.
The left-armer will fly home in the next 24 hours, while a replacement will be named in due course.
England have not named their reserves in advance, other than Jofra Archer, but he is returning home after it was decided the fast bowler would not be fit enough to take part in the tournament because of his own elbow issue.
Several bowlers had been told to be on standby in case of injury, with Durham’s Brydon Carse, who impressed recently with four wickets in a T20 series against New Zealand, one possible option.
However, Topley’s injury, plus the poor form of Chris Woakes, who was dropped for the South Africa match, leaves England short of new-ball bowlers.
Carse primarily bowls outside of the first powerplay, as do Mark Wood and Gus Atkinson.
Asked about possible replacements in the aftermath of Saturday’s defeat, England coach Matthew Mott said. “We’ll have to sit down and have a look at that.
“We’ll have to look at the upcoming games.
“If there is an X-factor player we can look at – that’s why we’re very keen not to name the replacements and reserves, and it leaves an open mind for what we’re going to go with.”
Topley dismissed South Africa opener Quinton de Kock with his second ball on Saturday and returned despite the injury later in South Africa’s innings, removing Aiden Markram and David Miller.
The broken finger is another cruel blow for a player whose career has been blighted by injury.
He missed England’s T20 World Cup win last year with an ankle issue suffered in training in the week before the tournament, while four stress fractures in his back over five years, most recently in 2018, previously left him considering retirement.
England’s 229-run defeat by South Africa, their heaviest in terms of runs in one-day internationals, leaves their World Cup defence hanging by a thread.
They will likely have to win all five of their remaining group games to reach the semi-finals.