Three batsmen passed 100 as the runs flowed in the first one-day international in Bloemfontein, but where Hashim Amla and Colin Ingram’s twin tons powered South Africa to a lofty 351 for 6, Brendan Taylor was given scant support in his fighting 145 not out and the hosts duly wrapped up a 64-run win. Similarly, South Africa’s bowlers shared the spoils but Zimbabwe’s attack was rather more uneven, Shingi Masakadza being the only one to pick up any wickets but giving away 86 runs in the process, while the visitors’ spinners were more economical but unable to break through.
South Africa had been eager to stamp their authority on this series after their flawed performances in the Twenty20s – both of which they, nonetheless, won – and Amla launched their innings with an array of attacking strokes, easily outscoring Graeme Smith. Ingram joined Amla in the eighth over and their 136-run stand – easily the highest of the innings – lifted the total well out of Zimbabwe’s reach.
During the course of their partnership Amla registered the first South African ODI century at this ground at this ground since Andrew Hudson’s match-winning 108 against India in 1992-93. But Ingram’s knock, while not nearly as graceful, was arguably the more special as he became the first South African to register a century on ODI debut, and was finally dismissed in the 48th over after sending the total in the stratosphere in the midst of a brutal 76-run stand with David Miller, another of South Africa’s young guns.
When these two sides met in Bloemfontein a week ago it was the brutality of Smith and Loots Bosman’s hitting that demolished Zimbabwe’s pace attack, but today it was the serene grace of Amla’s bat that undid the seam bowlers. Smith’s dismissal did nothing to stem his attacking instincts, and Amla’s supple wrists took him to a 32-ball half-century, including ten fours, in the 11th over. Ingram initially let him take the lead in attack, but after a short rain delay he celebrated the resumption with a firm punch straight down the ground and was soon matching Amla shot for shot.
Amla reached the landmark with a paddle to the final leg boundary in the 29th over, but just as murmurings of a potential attempt on Sachin Tendulkar’s record-breaking double-hundred began his first lapse in concentration cost him his wicket, a shy from Utseya catching him short of his ground in the 32nd over.
With that Ingram took centre stage, barely missing a beat when AB de Villiers was run out by a direct hit from Cremer at midwicket, bludgeoning a full-toss from Masakadza to deep midwicket for his first six in the very next over. An anonymous innings from Albie Morkel was ended after just four balls, but Ingram was then joined by and the boundaries continued to flow.
After a nervous few balls stranded on 99, Ingram went to his hundred with a single off Mpofu, having accelerated after a slow start to reach the mark from 110 balls. He might have been caught at wide long-on shortly afterwards, but Sean Williams spilled the regulation chance and in the next over a lighthing-quick 50-run stand was brought up with two monstrous sixes off Miller’s bat and two canny singles.
Ingram added a second six off Masakadza, but then attempted an adventurous paddle to fine leg only to have his leg stump flattened. Masakadza squeezed a yorker through Miller’s defences one ball after the batsman had brought up a 30-ball half-century to pick up his fourth wicket, but those scalps cost 86 runs and with the rest of the attack unable to break through, Zimbabwe were left with an almost impossible task.
They might have got close had Taylor been given more support after Rusty Theron removed Hamilton Masakadza to pick up his first wicket in ODIs and break a spirited opening stand of 70 in just over 12 overs.
Taylor launched the chase with a flowing drive through cover off Parnell, and was harsh on any width offered with the new ball. An uncomplicated batsman, he has gradually cut out any unnecessary movements from his technique, keeping his backlift low and staying perfectly still at the crease until the right ball to hit comes his way.
While most of his runs came through the off side, Masakadza proved more authoritative when hitting to leg, cracking a couple of thunderous pulls before he stepped down the wicket and swatted Theron to Johan Botha, who held a juggled catch inches from the turf at deep cover.
That strike proved decisive, as the South African attack steadily chipped away at a vulnerable middle order. Nos. 3 to 7 were all dismissed for between 10 and 13 – Grant Flower’s international comeback proving distinctly low-key – and by the time the big-hitting Elton Chigumbura arrived at the crease the fight had all but gone from Zimbabwe’s chase.
Taylor, however, continued unbowed and went to his third international hundred in the calendar year with a steered single past point. With that the Powerplay was taken, and though the result was already a foregone conclusion Taylor opened up in style, lacing five more boundaries and reaching an unbeaten 145. His effort, though, was bereft of any significant support and Zimbabwe will need a much more solid team effort if they are to challenge South Africa in the remaining two matches.