It was a rather pleasant welcome back to cricket from a hamstring injury for New Zealand opener Martin Guptill. Having missed out on the first three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) of the series, Guptill returned on Wednesday (March 1) with New Zealand faced with a do-or-die clash in order to extend their run of eight home ODI series wins in a row.
The flamboyant right-hander delivered brilliantly to the effect, playing one of his best one-day knocks amidst a record third-wicket stand of 180 with Ross Taylor as New Zealand cruised to a seven-wicket win over South Africa at Seddon Park in Hamilton, with 30 balls to spare to level the series 2-2 with one to play.
Guptill ended proceedings in style, launching Imran Tahir for back-to-back sixes before picking up the winning runs in the form of a couple, and remaining unbeaten on 180 off just 138 balls – the highest second-innings score by a New Zealand batsman.
New Zealand had squandered their position of strength in the first innings, allowing one-day captain, AB de Villiers, to get away with an unbeaten 72, with two fifty-run stands with the lower order, that took South Africa to 279 for 8 from 158 for 6. However, Guptill ensured the lapse didn’t cost them dearly as he paced his innings to perfection from the start after Dean Brownie, the other opener, departed in the third over.
Skipper Kane Williamson and Guptill added 72 runs for the second wicket, 51 of which, came off the bat of the right-hander Guptill. Contrasting to New Zealand’s approach at the front where they started with two spinners, South Africa only brought in Tahir in the 13th over. He struck immediately and sent Williamson packing for 21. The demons present in the pitch that New Zealand exploited, South Africa failed to with their lack of cutters – a ploy which worked well for New Zealand.
When on 62, Guptill was adjudged leg before off Dwaine Pretorius by the on-field umpire Wayne Knights. However, Guptill reviewed the decision and it was eventually overturned after ball-tracking suggested the ball was going over leg and missing the stumps. There was no stopping Guptill since, as he raced away to his 12th ODI century off just 82 balls – 72 runs of which came just in boundaries. Taylor was an able accomplice to Guptill who took the backseat in their stand adding just 66, while the latter added 106. Taylor helped himself to a fifty with a monster hit over the mid-wicket boundary, while Guptill brought up his 150 soon after. Taylor departed with 23 runs left to win, but Guptill didn’t waste any time to scale them and secure a win for New Zealand, who were coming off a 159-run loss in the previous ODI.
Earlier, New Zealand opened the innings with spin from both ends – the first time they did so at home. The results were instant. In as early as the third ball of the innings, the ball turned sharply to catch Quinton de Kock’s outside edge. The wicketkeeper, who was chasing a record sixth consecutive half-century was dismissed for a golden duck – which was his first-ever in international cricket.
The pitch that showed lots of activity while the spinners were on, seemed particularly harmless once the pacers came on. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis staged an able recovery as the pair added 65 runs for the second wicket. Patel was ushered back in the 11th over, and struck in his next to send Amla back for 40, who got an inside edge that clipped the off stump. JP Duminy survived a chance when on 13, but didn’t milk the opportunity, being eventually bowled by Tim Southee for 25 after dragging on, while du Plessis brought up another gritty half-century.
Du Plessis (67) and David Miller (1) then departed in successive overs to reduce South Africa to 143 for 5, before they slipped further. De Villiers then stood up tall and once again, gritted his teeth and lifted South Africa from the mire they found themselves in. Chris Morris, who returned to the side in place of Andile Phehlukwayo, stitched a 58-run stand for the seventh wicket picking up the odd boundaries, but keeping the runs coming. It was a stand that was stitched at 8.5 runs an over – a reflection on how important it was from the South African perspective. New Zealand would have rued conceding the position of strength that they were in. Morris departed for a 27-ball 28, but de Villiers carried on with Wayne Parnell (29 off 12) with the pair adding another crucial 63 runs. De Villiers was unbeaten on 72 off 59 balls – an innings that comprised of three sixes and four boundaries.
Brief scores: South Africa 279/8 in 50 overs (AB de Villiers 72*, Faf du Plessis 67; Jeetan Patel 2-57) lost to New Zealand 280/3 in 45 overs (Martin Guptill 180*, Ross Taylor 66; Imran Tahir 2-56) by seven wickets.