Martin Guptill smashed 180 off 138 balls as New Zealand beat the Proteas by seven wickets in Hamilton to level the series.
South Africa experienced a different kind of pressure in this five-game series. They were certainly under pressure for the first 40 overs of their innings in Hamilton. When Guptill sparked New Zealand’s pursuit of 280 with an explosive display, the visitors were asked to respond.
In his comeback match, a rejuvenated Guptill proceeded to smash the bowlers to all corners. He carried his bat to finish with 180 off 138 balls. That knock included 15 4s and 11 6s.
A 72-run partnership with Kane Williamson ensured that New Zealand set a good platform. Despite the relatively slow pitch, the hosts scored with ease.
Guptill survived an lbw shout when he was on 62. It was a big moment in the match and in the context of the series.
A few overs earlier, Guptill and Williamson had decided not to review the dismissal of the New Zealand skipper. It proved a crucial call, as it ensured that Guptill had the option of a review after being given out by Paul Reiffel. The latter decision was overturned when replays showed the ball missing leg stump.
The Black Caps were cruising at 140-2 at the halfway point of their innings. Guptill reached his century off 82 deliveries, and then showed real intent to finish the Proteas off in the latter stages.
South Africa will be disappointed with the result as well as their performance. When they won the toss and elected to bat, AB de Villiers reasoned that the slow pitch might favour the side bowling second.
De Villiers was the key to South Africa posting a good total. At one point, the Proteas would have accepted 250. As it was, they finished on 279-8. They would have expected to win from there.
New Zealand bowled well initially and had the visitors battling at 158-6 after 37 overs. De Villiers and Chris Morris consolidated, and then launched a vicious counter-attack in the latter overs.
The Proteas added 106 runs in the final 10 overs. The bulk of the damage was done in the latter five, though, with De Villiers and Wayne Parnell finding the boundary regularly. The Proteas scored 72 runs during that period.
If the Black Caps were under pressure, they did not show it. Guptill took the fight to the South African bowlers early on, and found good support in the shape of Williamson and Ross Taylor.
The Proteas had no response to this onslaught. Not for the first time in the series, the bowlers and the skipper himself appeared devoid of ideas.
The series is all square at 2-2. The final and decisive match of the series will take place in Auckland on Saturday.
SA 279-8 (50 overs) – AB de Villiers 72 not out, Faf du Plessis 67, Hashim Amla 40, Jeetan Patel 2-57
NZ 280-3 (45 overs) – Martin Guptill 180 not out, Ross Taylor 66, Kane Williamson 21, Imran Tahir 2-56
New Zealand won by seven wickets
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images