New Zealand leveled the five-match One-Day International series against South Africa 2-2 at Hamilton on Wednesday with Martin Guptill leading the way with a breathtaking unbeaten 180 from 138 balls. Led by AB de Villiers’ heroics in the death overs (an unbeaten 72 from 59), the visitors posted 279/8, which was billed as an above-par score.

Guptill made it look easy, helping his team get to the target with five overs to spare along with ample support from a sturdy 66 from Ross Taylor. The Kiwis won by seven wickets. The slow nature of the wicket was evident with New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson deciding to open the bowling with spin from both ends, the first such occurrence in an ODI.

The wicket did scant little for Guptill to change his approach. Infact, he took on the Protea spin specialist Imran Tahir, arguably the best in the world in white-ball cricket. Guptill went on a leather hunt against Tahir, slamming 43 runs from just 23 balls, which included five big sixes. It was not like Tahir was having an off-day either. Take Guptill’s runs out of the equation and he had figures of 6.1-2-13-2 to his name.

Coming into the game, Guptill missed the first three games and had his task cut out after losing opener Dean Brownlie early. At the turn of the year, he had lost his place in the five-day game too.

A pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell may not be vastly experienced, but certainly had enough arsenal to run through a side.

The 27-year-old finished with 11 hits over the fence overall, becoming only the second ODI batsman to do so on two separate occasions. He is the first player to have more than three scores over 180 to his credit. That Taylor and Faf du Plessis, class players in their own right, laboured past the fifty-run mark also gives an indication about the ordeal that the batsmen were going through against the slower bowlers on the wicket. It is another matter what De Villiers and Parnell did in the death overs, smashing 61 from the last four overs.

“Possibly the greatest knock I have ever seen,” said skipper Williamson. For a man who has played and witnessed some of them over the last few years, Guptill could not have gotten a better testimonial that that.

Brief scores:

  • South Africa 279/8 in 50 overs (AB de Villiers 72 not out, Faf du Plessis 67; Jeetan Patel 2/57) lost to New Zealand 280/3 in 45 overs (Martin Guptill 180 not out, Ross Taylor 66; Imran Tahir 2/56) by 7 wickets.