Centurions Amla, de Villiers seal series for hosts
South Africa 273 for 2 (Amla 110, de Villiers 101*) beat Zimbabwe 268 (Taibu 78, Theron 5-44) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A maiden five-wicket haul for Rusty Theron, Hashim Amla's second consecutive hundred, and an eighth one-day ton for AB de Villiers sealed the series for South Africa with a crushing eight-wicket win in Potchefstroom. Tatenda Taibu was the only Zimbabwe batsman to take advantage of batting-friendly conditions, making 78 out of a total of 268 as the visitors were bowled out in the 49th over. Zimbabwe's bowlers, though, once again had no answer to the range and grace of Amla's strokeplay, and South Africa cantered to victory with 11 overs to spare.
Amla dominated the opening exchanges of his 84-run partnership with Graeme Smith, launching South Africa's chase with a flurry of precisely-placed boundaries to allow his somewhat reticent partner time to settle at the crease. He had more than doubled his captain's score when Elton Chigumbura brought himself on in the ninth over but with the change in the bowling Smith exploded into life, stroking two masterful straight boundaries and then stepping down the track to biff Shingirai Masakadza over long-on.
Smith had motored to a run-a-ball 40 but fell when attempting one adventurous shot too many against Chigumbura, immediately after slapping him to the midwicket boundary. Backing right to leg before the ball was even delivered, Smith misread the pace of the delivery as Chigumbura held one back a touch. A swirling top-edge off another leg-side swipe landed safely in Keith Dabengwa's hands at mid-off.
Zimbabwe might have thought the wicket would bring a lull in the scoring, but if anything de Villiers' entry simply hastened their demise. A half-tracker from medium-pacer Chamu Chibhabha was muscled imperiously to the midwicket boundary, and Graeme Cremer's legspin was greeted with a shimmy down the track and a rifling mow over wide long-on.
Amla raced to a 42-ball half-century, and as his partnership with de Villiers flourished Zimbabwe began to struggle noticeably in the field. In no time de Villiers reached his own fifty, and without the firepower to break through on a flat track Zimbabwe raised the white flag. Amla eased to another hundred after his Bloemfontein effort, but once again fell with his score on 110, chipping Masakadza straight to Prosper Utseya at mid-on shortly after the Powerplay was taken in the 34th over.
By then, the job was almost complete with just 46 needed to win. There was just enough time for de Villiers to reach his own landmark as he rushed through the 80s with a four and a six off Utseya and then, with an enlivened home crowd behind him, sealed his hundred and the game with a fifth six off Brendan Taylor's gentle offspin.
While Zimbabwe's bowling has suffered all tour, the batting has been very competitive. Having got first strike today they would have been disappointed not to have made more than their 268. Aside from the hapless Sean Williams, who fell for a first-ball duck, all the batsmen got starts but Taibu was the only one to pass 32.
South Africa's bowling, on the other hand, went the other way following the battering they received in the Twenty20s and the first ODI. Theron, who mixed up his pace and angles while maintaining good lines, led the way for the hosts.
After another promising opening stand from Zimbabwe - this time between Taylor and Chibhabha in Hamilton Masakadza's absence - the visitors lost three wickets for one run in the space of nine balls to slip to 60 for 3 by the 14th over.
Taylor was defeated by a change of pace, top-edging an attempted swipe to leg into de Villiers' waiting gloves. Williams then fell to a flat-footed poke, also caught behind. After facing five dot balls off Wayne Parnell in the 12th over, pressure got the better of Chibhabha as he tried to run a back-of-a-length delivery to third man, but ended giving de Villiers his third catch of the morning.
Zimbabwe then steadied with Taibu finding a willing partner in Grant Flower. Flower began to show glimpses of his class with a couple of confident flicks to the leg-side boundary in a run-a-ball 22. However, he failed to cash in after looking well set, dancing down the wicket and straight past a flighted offspinner from JP Duminy.
Craig Ervine and Elton Chigumbura flickered and, without ever looking fluent, complemented Taibu's busy approach. In a manner befitting a pint-sized wicketkeeper-batsman Taibu pushed quick singles, flicked well-run twos in awkward positions, and soon started finding the boundary to reach 50 off 61 balls.
While Taibu and Chigumbura were together, Zimbabwe looked to be building towards a noisy crescendo but, as so often seems the case, they came unstuck on taking the batting Powerplay. Taibu fell to the first ball - delivered by Charl Langeveldt - edging low to Theron in the circle. Taibu was unsure whether it had carried but was soon sent on his way by the third umpire.
Keith Dabengwa swiped a couple of boundaries, taking two enormous sixes over midwicket off a tiring Parnell, before falling to Theron. The innings ended soon after, with Theron castling Graeme Cremer to seal his five-for and set up what was ultimately an easy chase for South Africa's batsmen.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo