HAMILTON: Opening batsman Martin Guptill returned from injury to score an unbeaten 180 and lead New Zealand to a seven-wicket win over South Africa in the fourth ODI yesterday, tying the five-match series at 2-2. Guptill has been sidelined for the past month with hamstring injuries and was making his first ODI appearance since Jan. 30 when he scored 61 against Australia in Auckland. He shrugged off that enforced layoff, dashing to his 12th ODI century from 82 balls on a tricky pitch at Seddon Park. Guptill’s 180 from 138 balls contained 15 fours and 11 sixes and was the highest score by a New Zealand batsman against South Africa, and his unbroken partnership with Ross Taylor (66) was the highest for all wickets for New Zealand against the Proteas.
In partnership, the pair guided New Zealand to their winning total of 280-3, surpassing South Africa’s 279-8 with five overs to spare. South Africa captain A.B. de Villiers called Guptill “unstoppable” and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson described his innings as “unbelievable,” saying it was “probably the best one-day innings I’ve ever seen on a wicket that wasn’t that easy.” Guptill, more subdued, said he was simply glad to be in the middle again after a long battle with hamstring injuries. “It was one of those innings where it all went to plan and Ross and I were able to take it deep,” Guptill said. “That partnership set it up really nicely. “I had a couple of good nets the last couple of days but it’s always nice to go out to the middle and hit a few out of the screws.”
Guptill raced to 50 from only 38 balls with six fours and three sixes. His century contained 12 fours and four sixes and his 150, from 123 balls, had 14 fours and nine sixes. His total of 180 was the highest percentage of a winning total for New Zealand in the second innings of a one-day match. Taylor was very much the junior partner in the stand, struggling for much of his innings to find his timing and willing for that reason to defer to Guptill, who was so clearly in the zone. But while he took 83 balls to reach his 50 – one more than Guptill needed for his century – he reached that milestone with a flourish, striking a towering six off Chris Morris. On his way he passed Brendon McCullum to place himself third behind Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle on New Zealand’s all-time list of run-scorers in one-day internationals. Many of Guptill’s scoring shots were memorable and included two sixes off Morris, one over mid-wicket and another over the bowler’s head, which flew almost out of the ground.
Through his Taylor’s efforts the series remains alive and will be decided in the final match in Auckland on Saturday, in which New Zealand has the chance to extend its winning streak in ODI series at home to nine. “We probably would have liked to restrict them to less than that total but for Martin to come out and play a hand like that, it was a special knock,” Williamson said. “Also the way Ross stuck at it. They put together a partnership that allowed Guppy to play with that freedom.” Guptill was Man of the Match as his innings surpassed all achievements in the match and series to date. No South African batsman has reached a century in the series so far and De Villiers’ 85 in the last match in Wellington is still their best in four matches.
De Villiers made a superb unbeaten 72 from 59 balls yesterday to lead South Africa to 279-8 as it batted first after winning the toss. Faf du Plessis fulfilled Taylor’s subordinate role, scoring 67 from 97 balls, and Hashim Amla made a return to form with 40 from 38 balls, leading the Protea’s recovery after the loss of Quinton de Kock in the first over. De Kock’s first-ball dismissal, as New Zealand opened the bowling with spinners for the first time in an ODI at home, ended his run of five consecutive centuries in one-day internationals, a South African record he shares with Jonty Rhodes. Amla contributed 40 of a 65-run second innings partnership with du Plessis, who then steered the South African innings through its middle stages. – AP