Hashim Amla roared back to form after a lean spell, with a hard fought century as South Africa got the better of New Zealand by 20 runs in the first ODI of the series at SuperSport Park in Centurion. Amla made 124, his 21st ODI century, to break a string of low scores. With his latest ton, he also equalled Herschelle Gibbs as the man with most ODI tons for South Africa. Rilee Rossouw also chipped in with an impressive 89 as the Proteas crossed the 300 mark with ease. For the Kiwis, Tom Latham, who was lucky early on, top scored with 60 while Kane Williamson chipped in with 47. There were a good quick cameos down the order, but New Zealand fell well short in the end.
Amla did not look in great form at the start as he tried to set himself in. However, Mitchell McClenaghan bowled a couple of short balls to the batsman, and that sent things in order for Amla. The South African opener is one of the best hitters of the short ball, and responded with an upper cut and a hook, both of which sailed over the ropes. The same move from McClenaghan was, however, successful against the other opener, the recalled 36-year-old Morne van Wyk. He tried to pull out of a shot being uncertain and, in the end, only ended up handing a simple catch to slip.
The dismissal of van Wyk marked the beginning of the best phase in South Africa's innings as Rossouw joined forces with Amla. The duo added 185 for the second wicket to put South Africa into a dominant position. Their alliance was a mixed bag with some well timed and hard-hitting strokes interspersed with some not so good looking ones. The duo had their strokes of luck too as the Kiwis were unusually lacklustre in the field. When on 34, Rossouw hit Grant Elliott to deep square leg, but Adam Milne could not hold on. Then, on 74, Amla drove Colin Munro to covers where Tom Latham put him down. The partnership took off after that as Amla brought up his hundred from 109 balls.
New Zealand's reply was highly jittery as Dale Steyn bowled his fire. He nearly had Tom Latham and Luke Ronchi off the first and fourth ball respectively, but both survived. It wasn't to last though. Steyn had Ronchi caught at slip a couple of balls later. The drop of Latham, however, went on to prove a bit costly as Latham went on to make 60. It wasn't enough though as it ended up being the top individual score for the Kiwis. They needed more chasing 300 plus. Latham, in combination with Kane Williamson, added 104 for the second wicket as New Zealand stayed in hunt. They were aided with easy runs as David Wiese was introduced into the attack.
Just as New Zealand seemed to be getting into a decent position, Imran Tahir struck. He went to drive the leggie inside out through covers, but Dean Elgar stretched himself, and claimed the catch above his head. An unfit Martin Guptill came into bat at number four, but made an unconvincing 25. The chase seemed over for New Zealand after Vernon Philander had Grant Elliott caught in the third man region, and then trapped the set Latham lbw. Jimmy Neesham and Colin Munro kept the hopes alive with a swift 71 for the sixth wicket. But, there was too much to do for the visitors, and they lost their last five wickets for 55 runs.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent