BLoemfontein: Graeme Smith hit a brutal half-century as South Africa raced to a seven-wicket win in the first Twenty20 international against Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein on Friday.
In his first match since handing over the 20-overs captaincy to Johan Botha, Smith slammed 58 off 29 balls as South Africa chased down a seemingly competitive Zimbabwe total of 168 for four, winning with 25 balls to spare.
Smith and Loots Bosman gave South Africa a blistering start, putting on 90 for the first wicket off 42 balls. Bosman made 33 off only 15 deliveries.
Both openers were out within the space of four balls and debutant Colin Ingram followed seven balls later, but JP Duminy (35 not out) and David Miller (36 not out) resumed the assault on a weak Zimbabwe bowling attack, putting on an unbeaten 70 off 43 balls.
Smith, who will continue to captain South Africa in one-day internationals and Test matches, said he had enjoyed "relaxing a bit more, not having as much to do".
He spent a spell fielding on the boundary and said he was able to focus on "the job I had to do".
Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha hit half-centuries as Zimbabwe put up a strong showing with the bat.
Opening batsman Masakadza, returning to the city where he went to university, hit 72 off 63 balls, while Chibhabha hammered 52 off only 32 deliveries.
Botha admitted that South Africa, in their first international match since June, were "a little bit below par" in the field.
South Africa, already without star fast bowler Dale Steyn because of a back injury, lost fellow paceman Morne Morkel when he suffered sprained right ankle ligaments while fielding. Morkel had only bowled two of his maximum four overs.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura declared himself happy with his side's batting but said their bowling needed to improve ahead of the second and final match in Kimberley on Sunday.
"I thought we had a chance if we bowled well but the South African guys batted really well in the first six overs," he said.
Zimbabwe 168 for 4 (Masakadza 72, Chibhabha 52, Parnell 2-29)
South Africa 169 for 3 (Smith 52, Miller 36*)
Result South Africa won seven wickets
MOM Graeme Smith (South Africa)