Cape Town - Rival captains, Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis, both scored superb centuries but in the end India coasted to a comfortable six-wicket victory with nearly 5 overs to spare in the opening ODI at Kingsmead on Thursday.
Du Plessis’ century (120 off 112 balls, 11 fours and 2 sixes) was marginally faster than Kohli’s (112 off 119 balls, 10 fours) but both innings had to be seen in the context of the match overall.
The match was effectively decided in the first place by the Proteas only managing to score 51/4 in the 13 overs between the 15th and 28th overs and in the second by the Indian record third-wicket partnership in ODIs against South Africa of 189 off 188 balls between Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane (79 off 86 balls, 5 fours and 2 sixes).
By the time Andile Phehlukwayo claimed both their wickets the match was as good as over as a contest.
Kohli, in making his 33rd ODI century, showed once again how good he is in pacing a successful chase, something he has done on numerous occasions for India.
By contrast, Du Plessis first had to bring some stability to the South African innings before setting about trying to set a target that gave the Proteas some sort of chance as he shared successive partnerships of 74 for the sixth wicket with Chris Morris and 56 for the seventh wicket with Phehlukwayo before finally perishing in the final over with four balls left to be bowled.
In the Proteas middle-order struggle India had two match-winners in their two wrist spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal (2/45) and Kuldeep Yadav (3/34), who both bowled their full complement of 10 overs. It was their ability to take wickets in the middle overs that proved decisive.
The Proteas were a good 50 to 60 runs short of the total they needed after winning the toss and they will hardly need reminding that their successive series wins against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand last summer were all built around their ability to make totals in excess of 300 consistently whenever they were required whether setting or chasing.
The fact of the matter is that, with the changing nature of this format, a total of 300 is the minimum benchmark to be competitive and this no doubt will be top of the agenda as the Proteas prepare for the second match at SuperSport Park on Sunday.