India's decision to make South Africa bat backfired as the hosts piled up a mammoth 358 for four, courtesy Quinton de Kock (135 off 121), skipper Ab de Villiers (77 off 47), Hashim Amla (65) and JP Duminy (59 off 29).
The visitors' highly rated batting line-up struggled in alien conditions, managing only 217 in 41 overs with captain MS Dhoni waging a lonely battle. South African pace spearhead Dale Steyn (3/25) and Ryan McLaren (3/49) did most of the damage.
India were up against it even before the first ball was bowled, having gone into the tour opener without playing a warm up game.
The batsmen, who flourished in the recent home series against Australia and the West Indies, looked vulnerable against the pace and bounce generated by likes of Steyn and Morne Morkel.
The two maiden overs by Steyn at the start of the Indian run chase was a master class in swing bowling. Opener Rohit Sharma found it tough to put bat to ball and was lucky to survive those 12 balls.
Morkel, first change to Lonwabo Tsotsobe, troubled the opposition with producing that extra bounce he is known for. On his first ball, he got rid of Shikhar Dhawan (12), who mistimed a pull and wicketkeeper de Kock picked up a skier.
A 46-run stand for the second wicket between Rohit (18) and Virat Kohli (31) raised hopes in the dressing room.
However, pacer McLaren delivered a body blow to the Indians by getting the prolific Kohli caught at first slip. Kohli looked at ease in his brief knock and played some scintillating strokes.
Two balls later, McLaren bowled a beautiful inswinger which brushed Yuvraj Singh's pads on way to the stumps. India were 60 for three in 15 overs.
Run outs of Rohit and Suresh Raina (14) sealed a forgettable for India, leaving them at 108 for five.
Dhoni stayed till the end but he was left with too much to do.
Earlier, South Africa punished the erratic Indian bowlers by posting a daunting target.
It was easy pickings for the home team with the opposition attack feeding them with plenty of loose stuff. The yorkers needed in death overs were once again hard to come by.
South Africa ended up hammering 135 runs off the last 60 balls.
The second one-day of the three match series will take place at Durban Dec 8.
--IANS (Posted on 06-12-2013)