A brilliant, unbeaten century from New Zealand opener Martin Guptill led the Black Caps to a face-saving, series levelling victory by eight wickets against the Proteas in the second KFC T20 International at Buffalo Park on Sunday.
Chasing 169 for victory in 19 overs, Guptill helped erase the memory of the Friday’s embarrassing capitulation to 86 all out in Durban with a stunning display of batsmanship which saw the tourists reach their target for the loss of just two wickets off the final ball of the match.
Requiring 39 from the final four overs and 11 off the last, Guptill was on 97 when Rory Kleinveldt ran in to bowl the final delivery with four required for victory. As always, the margins between success and failure were fractional and an attempted yorker became a low full toss and was eased away through extra cover.
Guptill’s unbeaten 101 was just the third T20 International century by a New Zealander, the first two belonging to current captain Brendon McCullum who was almost anonymous with 17 from 15 balls during a second wicket partnership of 75 with Guptill.
The right handed opener was similarly dominant during an opening stand of 76 with Ron Nicol (25) as he drove the Proteas attack impeccably straight and displayed the skills - and patience – so obviously missing from the NZ batsman in Durban on Friday.
Captain Faf du Plessis led from the front once again as South Africa posted a competitive 165-5 in 19 overs as the home side appeared to be dominating the game after losing the toss and being asked to bat first.
Du Plessis paced his innings to perfection on a tricky pitch to reach 63 from 43 balls with eight fours and a six to guide the Proteas to a total of 165-5 in a match reduced to 19 overs per side following a 52-minute floodlight failure.
Henry Davids laid the perfect platform with a dazzling 55 from 38 balls and David Miller scorched 33 from just 18 balls with a pair of fours and sixes but the final surge was halted in the last over with three wickets falling within the space of four balls to seamer Doug Bracewell.
But the good work was undone in the closing stages as errors crept into the Proteas bowling and fielding as the finish line approached. Guptill was given a late reprieve, caught off a Ryan McLaren full toss (no-ball for height) and Robbie Peterson spilling a high catch which should have been left to ‘keeper Quinton de Kock.
The deciding match takes place in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.