Sachin Tendulkar's glistening 99 went in vain as South Africa clinched a morale-boosting victory over India in the first ODI of the three-match series in Belfast on Tuesday.
India posted a total of 242 runs at the loss of eight wickets. In return, the Proteas chased the total with three balls and four wickets remaining.
The defeat added insult to injury to the beleaguered Indian team which was struggling to find 11 fit players on Monday as several of them were down with viral and flu.
South African captain Jacques Kallis' decision to field proved correct as they restricted India to an achievable total. He capped the Man of the Match title for his unbeaten 91 in addition to two wickets and two catches.
South Africa innings
Openers AB de Villiers and MN van Wyk started on a steady note, scoring 43 in the first ten overs. But in the 13th over, wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik grabbed a flying catch to dismiss de Villiers off pacer RP Singh.
Piyush Chawla created pressure on the opponents by striking twice closely. His first victim was van Wyk in the 20th over. The opener walked back for 44 off 55 balls. In his next over, the leg-spinner's fine delivery barged into the off stump dismissing Herschelle Gibbs at 5.
JP Dummy sweeped a shot only to be caught by Tendulkar at deep midwicket off off-spinner Ramesh Powar. He returned at 11.
Just as it seemed that Kallis and Boucher had stabilised the side, Zaheer Khan trapped the latter leg before at 23. Chawla got his third wicket of the day in Andrew Hall. Dravid caught the ball at short cover and the batsman turned to the pavilion at 16.
The next ten overs proved fatal for India, as they failed to scalp a wicket. Kallis went on to score a remarkable 91 not out while Vernon Philander hit the winning boundary for South Africa in his unbeaten 17.
Pacer Andre Nel struck early to dismiss Sourav Ganguly in just his second delivery. The Bengal southpaw was caught behind by keeper Mark Boucher at a forgettable score of 13.
Nel returned to despatch Gautam Gambhir for a duck as Kallis grabbed a fine catch at second slip. Skipper Rahul Dravid came to rescue his side.
Starting on a sedate note, Tendulkar completed his 78th ODI half-century in the 29th over while Dravid finished his 79th ODI fifty in the 37th over.
In an attempt to boost the run rate, India lost a flurry of wickets in the last six overs.
In the 44th over, Dravid failed to confront a yorker off Nel as the leg stump went for a toss. The captain returned to pavilion at 74 off 93 balls. The duo managed to steady the innings with a 158-run partnership as India looked to pile a decent total.
An over later, Boucher and van Wyk accounted for the run out of century-nearing Tendulkar, who attempted to take a run which was not there. The batsman looked crestfallen walking back at 99.
Yuvraj Singh planted an easy catch to Kallis at mid-on off Andrew Hall's delivery. He returned at 13. The pacer's next victim was Karthik (19), who attempted to divulge the ball to off side but the ball crashed into the stumps instead.
The last over of the innings registered two wickets - Rohit Sharma (8) and Ramesh Powar (1). The former put a weak defence as the ball went crashing into the leg stump. Powar, however, passed a catch to de Villiers off Kallis' delivery as India set a modest total against the Proteas.
Left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan returned to the Indian team after missing the match against Ireland. He replaced the unwell Sreesanth. Off-spinner Ramesh Powar came in for Agarkar.
India: Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh.
South Africa: AB de Villiers, Morve van Wyk, Jacques Kallis (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher (wicketkeeper), Andrew Hall, Vernon Philander, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini.