Opener Hashim Amla carried his bat through the innings to record an unbeaten 122 as South Africa eased to a 93 run victory over Zimbabwe in the first one-day international at Queens Sports Club on Sunday.
Amla scored his 15th limited ton in helping South Africa to 309 for three in their 50 overs before they bowled their hosts out for 216 in a chase that had briefly looked on when Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams added 100 runs for the fourth wicket.
But when the pair were out within two overs of each other, the home side’s chances faded and South Africa were able to close out the victory with ease.
Both sides were under new leadership from the one-off test that ended with an emphatic South African win, with AB de Villiers taking over from Amla for the Proteas and Elton Chigumbura replacing Brendan Taylor for the hosts.
Zimbabwe also handed 50-over international debuts to off-spinner John Nyumbu, teenage all-rounder Luke Jongwe and seamer Neville Madziva.
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Zimbabwe won the toss and chose to field but battled for wickets on a good batting track.
Amla and Quinton de Kock (63) put on 109 for the first wicket, before Faf du Plessis (59) added another 123 for the second with the steady test skipper.
De Villiers perished for 21 trying to increase the run-rate in the final five overs before Amla and JP Duminy, who smashed an unbeaten 22 in 11 balls, got South Africa past the 300 with a late flurry of runs.
Amla’s 122 came from 132 balls with six fours and three sixes as he skilfully manoeuvred the ball around the ground.
Zimbabwe were soon in trouble at 34 for three when their leading batsman Taylor (6) chipped a catch to David Miller at long off from the bowling of left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso.
Masakadza (61) and Williams did an excellent job of dragging the hosts back into the contest with some superb hitting before the former lashed the ball straight to Du Plessis at point off the bowling of Wayne Parnell with the score on 134.
Williams (51) followed when he spooned a simple catch to Du Plessis off leg-spinner Imran Tahir, a double blow from which Zimbabwe never recovered as the runs dried up and they were all out off the penultimate ball of the innings.
Phangiso (three for 43) and Tahir (three for 44) were the pick of the Proteas bowlers.
The second match is on Tuesday before the series finale on Thursday, all in Bulawayo