Black Caps hero Martin Guptill revealed a few words of advice from axed skipper Ross Taylor helped him score a stunning century in South Africa today that has got New Zealand back into the Twenty20 series with the Proteas.
Guptill hit a four off the last ball to score his first T20 international century and get New Zealand through to 169-2 to claim the crucial win in East London.
After the eight-wicket loss in Durban, the Black Caps bounced back in style at Buffalo Park, taking the three-match series into a decider in Port Elizabeth on Thursday morning (NZ time).
Guptill missed the first match of the series with a stomach upset that required him to be on a drip. But he was at his best today, crunching an unbeaten 101 off just 69 balls with nine fours and six sixes.
New skipper Brendon McCullum is the only other New Zealander to get into three figures in an international T20.
In the official TV man-of-the-match interview after the game, Guptill said his old skipper Taylor, back in New Zealand after refusing to tour South Africa in the wake of his axing as skipper, had given him some encouragement ahead of this crucial century.
"I hadn't been feeling great in the nets before this innings but I was talking to a couple of people back home ... my girlfriend and Ross Taylor. He told me to relax and take it one ball at the time and I just did that and got through to the end," Guptill said.
Guptill only took his place in today's match after completing the practice session earlier in the day.
"I felt a whole lot better than I did two days ago," he said, looking excited but drained after his hour and a half stint at the crease.
"I rested up for the first game and had a bit of a rest day yesterday and came through training pretty well today, so I was able to play."
He's hoping this victory can give the Black Caps some momentum as they look to move on from all the controversy off the last few weeks by performing on the field.
Christmas dinner will certainly taste better on the back of today's effort. New Zealand will cherish this victory and Guptill said the side would relish the challenge in the deciding T20.
"It's a must-win game in Port Elizabeth for both sides so it's going to be an even contest.
"It's going to take one person or a couple of people to take the game away from the other team and hopefully that's going to be us again.
"It's the same situation (against South Africa) last summer back home. It was one-all leading into the third match, so it will make for a great finale."
McCullum had huge praise Guptill's bravery and skills.
"Martin Guptill's innings was out of the top drawer. He has hardly left his room lately (because of illness)," McCullum said.
McCullum felt his bowlers had done a decent job under difficult circumstances. The match was stopped for 45 minutes because of a power failure to one of the four stacks of floodlights. South Africa got through to 165-5 and had that adjusted to 168 under the controversial Duckworth Lewis system with the match reduced to a 19-overs affair because of the time lost.
Needing more than nine an over, McCullum felt "a couple of partnerships could set us up".
That's how it unfolded with Guptill and Nicol scoring 76 for the first wicket – a record against South Africa – and Guptill forging on with McCullum and Colin Munro to see out an unlikely victory.
The Black Caps needed 11 off the last over and then it came down to Guptill needing four off the last ball for both his century and victory.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis was also warm with his praise for Guptill, admitting the New Zealand opener had taken the game away from his side.
"When someone scores 100 they can completely bat you out of the game," du Plessis said.
"We didn't play a bad game ... we were outplayed by a great knock."
McCullum said his side never waivered in their belief after being dismissed for just 86 last Saturday where they paid the price for being too aggressive.
"We stayed strong to the team planning and stayed tight as a group. This was a great comeback and I'm really proud of the guys," McCullum said.
"This is a result that will hopefully leapfrog us into the final game and the series. This can't be a one-off game for us."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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