Bulawayo: Hashim Amla`s 15th one-day international hundred guided South Africa to a comfortable 93-run victory in the first game of a three-match series against Zimbabwe, here on Sunday.
Amla batted through the innings to finish unbeaten on 122 from 132 balls as the Proteas posted 309 for three, before spinners Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso took three wickets apiece to bowl Zimbabwe out for 216.
The one-sided nature of the match at the Queen`s Sports Club was established right from the beginning as Amla shared a century stand with Quinton de Kock.
While the early starts in Zimbabwean ODIs traditionally give plenty of assistance to the side bowling first and the game began under cloudy skies, the home side`s young attack was unable to capitalise on those conditions.
Seamer Neville Madziva and 19-year-old all-rounder Luke Jongwe were both handed international debuts but both struggled against an aggressive De Kock, who went to his fifty in just 42 balls.
However the left-hander failed to convert a fifty into a century for the first time in his young career when a mishit off the bowling of off spinner John Nyumbu, who was making his one-day debut, saw him depart for 63.
The dismissal prompted a period of slower scoring as Faf du Plessis bedded in and Zimbabwe`s spinners dragged the game back, before the batting powerplay sparked the South African innings once more with Du Plessis and Amla taking 40 runs from the five overs.
Although Du Plessis sliced a Nyumbu delivery to extra cover to depart for 59 soon after, Amla went to his third hundred in four matches and AB de Villiers and JP Duminy scored quick late runs as the Proteas added 101 runs in the last 10 overs.
"There was talk of 250 at one point, and even when Hash came off he said that he never thought we`d get to 300-plus," De Villiers said.
"It shows you that we`re quite dangerous with wickets in hand in the last 15 overs."
While scores of above 300 have twice been chased down at Queens Sports Club in recent years, Zimbabwe failed to make the solid start they required as they were reduced to 34 for three.
"Unfortunately we lost too many wickets early on and to bring it back from there is always hard -- especially against a team like South Africa," Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said.
Although Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams revived the innings with a 100-run stand for the fourth wicket that breathed some life into the crowd, Wayne Parnell snuffed it out when he had Masakadza caught for 61.
Williams became the first of Imran Tahir`s three wickets when he departed for 51 soon after, before the leg spinner cleaned up the tail along with Phangiso.