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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Martin Guptill's brilliance (180*) ensure chase of 280 at Hamilton

In Kotla in 2016 India would not have expected a target of 243 to trouble them. But it did. There was a goofy over from Martin Guptill - four wides, ten balls, and two wickets - brought Hardik Pandya front and centre for the second match in a row. He wrestled an equation of 48 off 36 balls down to 11 off eight. India had two wickets left. The 9th wicket partnership made  49 at a run-a-ball. In the end all that was not enough. That man is back in news – away in Hamilton.

New Zealand was talking about cricket on Thursday morning. There has been significant interest in the contests against South Africa, but there was a hint of the 2015 World Cup vibe in the aftermath of Martin Guptill's unbeaten 180 in Hamilton. It was a shame the innings did not have a bigger crowd to witness it than 2264 - a result, largely, of the reasonably late change of venue when the game was moved from Napier - but Guptill was a main topic of breakfast TV and radio while there was a bigger-than-average media huddle to speak to coach Mike Hesson in Auckland.

Guptill, who had suffered two separate hamstring strains and not played for a month, scored 180 not out and combined with Ross Taylor (66) in a 180-run partnership to take New Zealand to 280-3 in 45 overs. The 30-year-old blasted 11 sixes and 15 boundaries in his swashbuckling 138-ball knock to secure a win which locked the five-match series at 2-2 with the decider at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. South Africa's 279-8 had been anchored by captain AB de Villiers, who flayed New Zealand bowlers all around Seddon Park in the final few 'death' overs to finish on 72 not out. The total had looked to be a difficult one to achieve on the slow-paced pitch but Guptill seized control of the chase with arguably the best innings of his career.

He brought up his half century off 38 balls and then had an lbw decision to Dwaine Pretorius on 62 overturned on review before he reached his 12th ODI century from 82 balls, which included 12 boundaries and four sixes. 

Stuff Co NZ opined that - after watching such an imperious, dominant innings like Martin Guptill's it's easy to get carried away. One might even label it the best one-day international knock by a New Zealander. Maybe go a bold step further and label Guptill the best ODI batsman New Zealand's seen. Well, hold the phone. And hear me out, after penning the name Martin James Guptill in vivid marker beside both those categories, wrote a sports correspondent.  Here is something excerpted from that article.

 At age 30, Guptill sits fifth on the list of New Zealand ODI run-scorers; including 12 centuries to his Hamilton co-star Ross Taylor's 17, and Nathan Astle's 16. Throw in Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum from the top-five and add Glenn Turner (career average 47), Kane Williamson (career average 46.3) and the late Martin Crowe (career average 38.55) to the debate. Guptill has exhibits A, B and C in the form of New Zealand's three highest ODI innings. The Wednesday night onslaught in Hamilton, 180 not out off 138 balls, remarkably lobs at third place. No-one else has plundered three 180-plus ODI innings. Two fair players named Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar have two apiece, as does Rohit Sharma.

The key question is: of the seven other fine New Zealand batsmen mentioned above, who could strike the ball as cleanly and effortlessly, for such an extended period of utter match-changing dominance? None. Not even McCullum who seized control of ODIs in a blink but only reached triple figures five times. Astle won plenty of games for his country opening, but Guptill is on a different level of power and poise. Only Chris Cairns comes close (and his unbeaten ton helped win New Zealand's only 50-over world title, in Kenya in 2000).

               Martin Guptill's innings of 180 not out was only his third-highest in ODI cricket but goes down as his greatest knock for impact and the quality of his opponents. Context is everything. This controlled batting assault was against the world's No 1 side, with 13 wins from their last 14 ODIs and a 2-1 stranglehold on the series. Guptill walked to the centre of Seddon Park averaging 22 against South Africa in ODIs, his team chasing an imposing 280.Guptill hadn't batted in any match since January 30. He was coming off a hamstring strain and clearly wasn't right throughout (it helped that 126 were scored in boundaries). SA had in its ranks  world's top-ranked ODI bowler Imran Tahir and eighth-ranked Kagiso Rabada, along with Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius who'd caused the Black Caps batsmen headaches.

One easily remembers that besides Indians – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma (2) & West Indian Chris Gayle, Guptill is the only player to have scored a 200 in One dayer.  Remember that match – ODI 3643 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on 21.3.15, Guptill  faced the first ball of New Zealand's innings and the last. He saw off 65 dot balls, respecting the good ones and making the most of the others. He brought up his 200 with a powerful crunch down the ground for four off Andre Russell from his 152nd delivery.  When he moved past 171, he had the highest World Cup score by a New Zealander, beating Glenn Turner's effort in their very first World Cup match back in 1975. He ended up unbeaten on 237*.

The recent venue of his 180,  Seddon Park,  was  named after  former New Zealand Prime Minister Richard John (King Dick) Seddon, the oval was renamed Trustbank Park following a major renovation and construction.  Hamilton (Māori: Kirikiriroa) is the seat and most populous city of the Waikato Region, in the North Island of New Zealand. The area now covered by the city of Hamilton  was originally the site of a handful of Māori villages. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

2nd Mar 2017

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