Crucial Black Caps' win an impressive response

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 13:00 24/12/2012
Martin Guptill.
Getty Images
GUTSY GUPTILL: A montage of photos showing Martin Guptill's reaction after hitting the winning runs and scoring a century in New Zealand's Twenty20 win over South Africa.

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OPINION: You only had to look at the Black Caps bench to see what the dramatic Twenty20 win over South Africa meant to Brendon McCullum's team.

As the match counted down to the very last ball there were more than just anxious looks from the New Zealanders.

Some of them were biting their finger nails. Ronnie Hira was gnawing on a bat handle.

When Martin Guptill smashed that last ball for four to claim a remarkable victory and one of the gutsier centuries, the bench went berserk.

And deservedly so. They'd had a rough couple of weeks with too much crap flying around their heads when they should have been receiving applause for having won a rare test in Sri Lanka.

A new-look team flew to South Africa hoping to get something going in the shortest form of the game to put the focus back on performance.

The promising warmup match was followed by an alarming limp opening loss to the Proteas.

To turn that around was crucial and the response was impressive.

This is a new-look Proteas team as well and they visibly tightened under the pressure applied by the Black Caps, most particularly Guptill's flashing blade.

Suddenly they were the ones spilling catches and letting ones turn into twos as the New Zealand run-chase heated up.

New Zealand's bowling in this win was mixed at best though Doug Bracewell's flurry of wickets in the last over prevented the South Africans from the sort of chaos that would have made them un-catchable.

There was a noticeable lift in the Black Caps fielding and an incredible improvement in their batting.

Their aggression was controlled in East London as opposed to being wild in Durban.

Guptill likes nothing more than to hit straight and long and proved the wisdom of this as opposed to the cross-bat carnage two days earlier.

The very fact that Guptill was the main figure in this victory says plenty about the current circumstances and turning things around.

His return from illness saw him lead by example. He's a senior figure in the Black Caps and most certainly in this fresh T20 side.

He batted accordingly, determined to be able to put the younger players in a better position should they be needed later on.

It was good to see young Colin Munro there at the end when the winning run was struck because he has looked the most promising of the new brigade.

He will take plenty from this victory as will the whole team, and coaching staff who have been under arguably the most pressure of all amidst the recent upheavals.

Guptill proved what one standout performance can do in the fickle world of T20.

As the Black Caps look to improve their Non 8 ranking, Guptill also left everyone wondering what this team might achieve with their other two world class batsmen, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder.

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