Durban:India suffered a top-order collapse to slump to a humiliating 135-run defeat against a clinical South Africa in the first cricket one-dayer here on Wednesday.
Chasing 290 for victory, India were never in the hunt after they lost their first four batsmen for just 43 runs and were ultimately bundled out for 154 in 35.4 overs.
Virat Kohli top-scored for India with a well-made 54 off 70 balls and together with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (25 off 35) added 52 runs for the fifth wicket to take India past the 150-mark.
Apart from Kohli and Dhoni, Suresh Raina was the other notable contributory for India with 32 off 36 balls.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the pick of the South African bowlers with figures of four for 31 while pace partners Dale Steyn (2/29) and Morne Morkel (2/12) scalped two wickets apiece.
Earlier, AB de Villers and JP Duminy notched up contrasting half centuries to propel South Africa to a challenging 289 for nine.
South Africa were looking good for a few more, but four wickets for just 56 runs in the last 10 overs somewhat foiled their plans.
Duminy (73 off 89) and de Villiers (76 off 69) scored at will, picking the gaps and finding the boundaries with consummate ease, after Hashim Amla (50 off 36) gave the hosts a flying start with an aggressive half-century at the Sahara Stadium in Kingsmead here.
For India, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Rohit Sharma finished with two wickets each, while Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Raina accounted for a victim each.
India's run chase started on a precarious note as Murali Vijay fell in the fourth ball of the innings, lbw to Steyn.
If that was not enough, already carrying a depleted batting line-up in the absence of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, India were dealt a severe blow in the fourth over when Sachin Tendulkar perished, top-edging a Tsotsobe delivery to Steyn at fine leg with the visitors scoreboard reading 13 for two.
India's problems were further compounded when Morkel struck twin blows in the 11th over.
Rohit was the first of Morkel's victim, caught by wicket-keeper de Villiers in the first ball of the 11th over but the batsman felt otherwise and left the ground dejected at umpire Simon Taufel's decision.
Much was expected from new man in Yuvraj Singh but he too failed to live up to his reputation as he departed three balls later, nicking another to de Villiers off Morkel.
Soon after arriving at the pitch, Dhoni tried to force his way out of the trouble with some attacking shots but he too found the going tough against the disciplined Protea attack.
India's struggle can be gauged from the fact that they found the fence only twice in the first 15 overs.
Kohli and Dhoni then played sensible cricket with ones and twos to steady the ship before Kohli opened up cloberring Joahn Botha for a straight six and a four off back-to-back deliveries in the 22nd over.
Inspired by his junior team-mate's strokeplay, Dhoni then broke his shackles with a boundary off Botha to pile up 15 runs of the 22nd over.
But just when it seemed India were slowly and steadily getting back into the match, Dhoni fell victim to an unlucky run out. The Indian skipper was caught off guard when Wayne Parnell got a finger tip to a well-timed Kohli straight drive, which crashed into the stumps at the bowler's end to draw curtains on the dangerous-looking partnership.
With the asking rate hovering up, Suresh Raina tried to relieve the pressure with a six off Botha but going for one too many he almost lost his wicket. He top-edged a slog sweep that fell in between a diving a David Miller and Parnell.
Smith's decision to call back Steyn into the attack in the 30th over struck gold when the pacer had Kohli caught by the Protea skipper himself in the mid-wicket but not before the right-hander scored his fifty during which he struck two fours and a lone six.
Then Harbhajan did little help to his side's cause departing for a duck, bowled by Parnell.
And once Raina departed, caught by Coil Ingram of Tsotsobe, victory was just a formality for the home team.
Earlier, batting first after winning the toss, South Africa rode on Amla's initial burst and then de Villiers and Duminy's partnership to post the challenging total.
While boundaries kept coming at regular intervals as long as de Viiliers and Duminy were at the crease, the two also ran hard between the wickets to steal the singles and twos.
After Munaf brought to an end the out-of-sorts Ingram's 34-minute stay in the middle, de Villiers signalled his arrival with two fours on either off Nehra. Along with Duminy, who came in at the fall of Amla's wicket, de Villiers rebuilt the hosts' innings by playing some sensible cricket.
De Villiers' knock, which included seven fours and one six, was in stark contrast to the one played by Duminy. While the former found the boundaries at will, including a straight six off Harbhajan midway into the innings, Duminy relied on ones and the twos.
He, however, sent a Yuvraj delivery over long-on for the maximum. Apart from that six, Duminy had just one four to show for.
Thanks to the de Villiers-Duminy combo, South Africa were cruising at 213 for three before the 131-run partnership came to an end, courtesy Rohit who was lucky that his long hop found Harbhajan's safe hands at deep mid-wicket.
Miller came and left but the hosts were dealt a big blow when Duminy, trying to reverse sweep Rohit, found himself trapped.
That pegged South Africa back who scored less than 100 runs in the last 15 overs, and just 45 after Duminy's departure in the 42nd over.
Botha (23) and Parnell (21 not out) collected some useful runs in the last few overs to lead their team to a comfortable total.
But it all started with the classy Amla, who averages over 60 in the shorter format of the game, giving South Africa a tremendous start, carting the Indian bowlers to all corners of the ground.
Even as Smith looked a bit scratchy during his brief stay at the crease, Amla was elegance personified.
He creamed Nehra through the covers to open his account, but soon got a reprieve when a diving Rohit failed to pounce on to -- what many would call a missed chance -- off a Zaheer delivery.
Soon after getting a life, Amla launched into an array of dazzling shots leaving the Indian fielders gasping for breath.
While none of the Indian bowlers were spared during his 36-ball 50, Amla was particularly severe on Nehra smashing the left-armer for 17 runs, including three successive boundaries off the first three deliveries, in his third over.
The opener then punished Zaheer by glancing one off his pas, before collecting two more boundaries off Munaf.
Such was his onslaught that South Africa's fifty was up in the seventh over of the innings, but, going for one too many, Amla was holed out to Harbhajan off Munaf.
Thereafter, the duo of Duminy and de Villiers consolidated the innings with a century partnership.