South Africa defeated Zimbabwe comfortably by 93 runs in the first match of the three-match one day series at Queen Sports Club at Bulawayo on Sunday.
The Proteas, the outright favourites, were expected to win handsomely and they did just that. They were propelled by a fantastic century from star batsman Hashim Amla and racked up 309, before bowling Zimbabwe out for 216. Amla, whose one-day form has been nothing short of stupendous, made 122 from 132 deliveries. This is the right-hander's fourth century in his last nine ODIs. He continued from where he left off in the series against Sri Lanka where he had made two centuries.
Zimbabwe were never in the hunt in the game after the South Africans went on to make a score in excess of 300. Right-hander Hamilton Masakadza and left-hander Sean Williams registered half-centuries for the home side as the two shared a hundred-run partnership, but they were playing catch up as the run rate and with it the pressure kept on mounting after they had lost early wickets.
Maskadza, who made 61, came to the crease after left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell struck early when he had opener Vusibusi Sibanda caught behind by Quinton de Kock for seven. Sibanda's dismissal allowed the Proteas bowlers to make early inroads, as the opener Richmond Mutumbami made his way back into the pavilion as he was dismissed for 13 by Ryan Mc Laren.
This brought possibly Zimbabwe's best batsman Brendan Taylor to the wicket. A partnership, with Zimbabwe at 27 for two, was desperately needed. Taylor, however, could do very little as he succumbed to left-arm orthodox bowler Aaron Phangiso for six. Zimbabwe were now in a lot of trouble at 34 for three. Williams came to the crease, and he and Maskadza set about repairing the innings.
At this point they could not afford to lose more wickets, and they looked to consolidate. As the run rate kept on increasing, boundaries and sixes needed to be hit. Maskadza went after leg-spinner Imran Tahir who he hit for a four and a six in over number 23. Williams too went about targeting Phangiso. The two, however, would not stay for too long after that as Parnell removed Maskadza, and Tahir had Williams caught by Faf du Plessis.
After the dismissal of these two it was only a matter of time for the South Africans. Only skipper Elton Chigumbura put up a bit of a fight as he made 36, but the rest could not contribute a great deal as Zimbabwe folded up for 216. Tahir and Phangiso, with three wickets each, were the pick of the bowlers for the Proteas.
Earlier, for South Africas, Amla and de Kock provided them the impetus to go on and make 309 with an opening stand of 109. De Kock contributed 63 runs to the partnership. After the left-hander's dismissal, Amla went on and made 122 and ensured Zimbabwe's bowlers would not stage a comeback. His knock contained six fours and three sixes.
Right-hander Du Plessis also made a useful 59, and in the death overs AB de Villiers and JP Duminy hit out to take South Africa to 309, which proved to be more than enough.