Jacques Kallis bowling to Yuvraj SinghThe crowd may have been numbered in hundreds rather than the tens of thousands that normally watch a one-day international between India and South Africa but those who turned up at Stormont yesterday, and braved the cold, were well rewarded.

Sachin Tendulkar scored 99 - his first in 376 ODI innings - Rahul Dravid, the India captain, made 74 and the two batsmen with more than 25,000 international runs between them shared a partnership of 158. Yet, they ended up on the losing side as Jacques Kallis, the South Africa skipper, paced his innings to perfection.

It may not have been as pleasing on the eye - few Kallis innings are - but his 91 not out was, unquestionably, the man of the match performance and when Vernon Philander struck the winning boundary, the Proteas had just three balls and four wickets to spare.

Considering that India were struggling to find 11 players to take part in the match - none of the late-call-ups were required but Dravid admitted some players were not 100 per cent fit - they did well to run the second best team in the world so close.

He also lost the toss so India had to take first use of a seaming pitch and with early morning moisture and cloud cover. Unsurprisingly, they lost two early wickets, both to Andre Nel, one of three changes to the South Africa team which defeated Ireland on Sunday.

Tendulkar was then joined by his captain and the batsmen's class was there for all to see as Kallis rang the changes without a hint of success for 30 overs. By the first drinks break Sachin, who took 17 balls to get off the mark, was into his stride, two classic straight off drives warming up the spectators.

The Little Master was disappointed to have failed against Ireland - bowled by Roger Whelan in the first over - but it only made him even more determined to get it right this time. He took 95 balls to reach his half century - the 119th time he has passed 50 - but he was on course for a run-a-ball second 50 when he dashed back for an unlikely second single. Morne Van Wyk's throw from deep cover was too good and Tendulkar was run out one short of his 42nd century.

By that stage, Dravid was already back in the pavilion for a much quicker 74, but including only six boundaries, and with the loss of the ‘Big Two' India scored only 29 runs off the last five overs. It was to prove crucial as South Africa dominated the first 20 overs of their reply and at 99 for one the hard work had been done. Former Carrick professional AB de Villiers made 24 but it was the loss of ex-Instonians opener van Wyk which sparked a mini collapse, three wickets falling for 25 runs.

Kallis, though, was the immovable batsman, unspectacular but effective. He was content to rotate the strike and see off the Indian spinners who caused such a go-slow in mid-innings that 24 consecutive singles were scored and 11 overs passed without the hint of a boundary. Philander, who had impressed with the ball against Ireland, however, showed the all-round qualities that Phil Simmons almost had this summer with an unflustered 17 from 22 balls. While he was with Kallis there was never a doubt that South Africa would take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, which resumes on Friday.