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Guptill powers New Zealand win

South Africa fights, but slumps to 34-run loss in Centurion Twenty20 International

Guptill powers New Zealand win - Cricket News
New Zealand, who posted a competitive 177 for 7, then came out like a side possessed to defend the score with gusto.
Thin air, high altitude, good pitch and a fast outfield often contribute towards high-scoring matches in the Highveld. But there’s also a simple matter of a batsman taking each of these factors in his stride without bowing to external pressure. On Sunday (August 16), New Zealand found its answer in Martin Guptill, whose robust 35-ball 60 laid the foundation for an impressive 32-run win to level the two-match Twenty20 International series against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

New Zealand, who posted a competitive 177 for 7, then came out like a side possessed to defend the score with gusto despite the odd pockets of brilliance from South Africa’s dynamic batting line-up.  Farhaan Behardien's valiant 36 aside, there wasn’t much to inspire the hosts as New Zealand unleashed its slower bowlers to choke the runs and eventually trigger a succession of misguided strokes. With the engine room of the batting back in the hut by the 10th over, South Africa stumbled to 145 for 8 at close.

It wasn’t the most entertaining chase, but it had the potential to be. That was nipped in the bud by the spin twins – Nathan McCullum and Ish Sodhi – who picked up four wickets between them to derail South Africa. The final nail in the coffin was nailed by Mitchell McClenaghan when he had the big-hitting David Miller caught at deep fine-leg with South Africa needing 45 off 14 balls.

New Zealand, who lost the first game by six wickets, came out with a plan. The intention of continuing its aggressive game, and not buckling down at the fall of wickets in the middle, bore fruit as the opening stand of 52 between Kane Williamson (25) and Guptill served as a proper launch pad.

The pace duo of Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott erred in length and were duly punished with South Africa quickly going into into damage-control mode, as AB de Villiers, standing-in for Faf du Plessis, summoned his spinners.

Eddie Leie, the legspinner, got some purchase, but inconsistency resulted in a number of friendly deliveries which Guptill took full toll off to race away to a half-century in the 10th over. Fortunately for South Africa, a tough chance grassed by Miller at wide long-on didn’t prove costly as Guptill holed out to the same fielder off Behardien shortly after.

If South Africa thought it had some temporary relief, it wasn’t to be as cameos from Grant Elliott (20), Neesham (28) and Colin Munro (18) sent it ducking for cover – Abbott's final over proving particularly costly as he was smashed for 19 – as New Zealand went into the break having regained some lost ground, even as Rabada somewhat redeemed himself towards the end with wickets off consecutive deliveries.

South Africa’s chase hit a roadblock almost immediately as comeback man Morne van Wyk was pouched by Luke Ronchi off McClenaghan in the third over. Four balls later, Hashim Amla slapped a short ball straight to point to leave South Africa in dire need of a partnership.

De Villiers blasted two fours and a monstrous six over deep midwicket in his 15, but once the thrill-a-minute ride ended, it was back to the drawing board. Rilee Rossouw first, and later Miller tried muscle their way on either side of Behardien's valiant knock, but the middle-order meltdown coupled with a mounting asking rate left South Africa stranded mid-pitch as New Zealand capped off a fine win to head into the ODI series with its confidence sky high.

To view the full scorecard, please click here

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