WELLINGTON, New Zealand, February 25 – South African captain AB de Villiers compiled a superb century to lead his side to an easy six wicket win over New Zealand in the opening one-day international at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
De Villiers, in deft touch, was not out for 106 with Faf du Plessis on 66 as South Africa overhauled New Zealand’s 253 for nine with 28 balls to spare.
On a ground with a history of favouring the side batting second, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum won the toss, elected to bat first and never seriously threatened from there as his batsmen failed to gain momentum.
Although the target was not immense, South Africa wavered at the start of their innings with Hashim Amla (8), Graeme Smith (9) and Jacques Kallis (13) falling in quick succession to be 35 for three by the 10th over.
But from there de Villiers steadied the run chase and they slowly and surely reeled in the New Zealand total although the South African captain played down the comprehensive nature of the win.
“We did really well in the field to restrict them to 250. They had a couple of partnerships going but they didn’t extend them and we kept picking up wickets at the right times,” he said.
“I thought I constructed my innings quite well which was important in the conditions on this pitch.
“We finished up with a win but, feet on the ground, we have two more big games to come”
McCullum said he had “no regrets” about batting first but “they kept picking up wickets at regular times against us and we couldn’t get that partnership we needed. The way AB came out certainly took the game away from us.”
De Villiers combined with JP Duminy (46) in a 90-run stand for the fourth wicket which was broken when Rob Nicol tossed up a full delivery and was rewarded with a simple caught and bowled opportunity.
South Africa were then 125 for four in the 31st over when Faf de Plessis joined his skipper and they dismantled the New Zealand bowling attack with apparent ease, compiling 129 runs over the next 14 overs.
They poked and prodded for singles when the field was spread and then effortlessly found the boundary when the fielders were brought in.
De Villiers came to the wicket in the fifth over with South Africa at 17 for two and faced 151 balls for his 106 which included three fours and four sixes.
He reached his century with a single off Doug Bracewell at the start of the 44th over and du Plessis marked the occasion with a six and two fours off the next three balls. Du Plessis’ 66 in 72 balls included nine fours and a six.
The New Zealand innings was built around a 79-run stand by McCullum and Kane Williamson for the third wicket after the hosts had started slowly, creeping to 75 for two in the first 20 overs.
The next 75 runs took less than 13 overs but the loss of McCullum, and the quick departure of big-hitting Jesse Ryder (6) soon after put the brakes on the New Zealand charge.
McCullum had a charmed life and was saved three times by television replays on his way to 56 off 67 balls.
Williamson, who was content to look for the singles, appeared intent on batting through the innings and reached his 55 in 69 balls when he had an uncharacteristic slash at Lonwabo Tsotsobe and was caught behind.
Opener Rob Nicol made 30 while James Franklin added 32 in the middle of the innings.
Tsotsobe was the most economical of the South African bowlers with two for 41 and Peterson and Kallis both finished with two for 45.
The second match in the series is in Napier on Wednesday.