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Carpe Diem, The Guptill Way

22/03/2015 5:34 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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New Zealand’s Martin Guptill waves his bat as he celebrates after scoring a century while batting against Bangladesh during their Cricket World Cup Pool A match in Hamilton, New Zealand, Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Ross Setford)

This article is from Cricbuzz.

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By Jamie Alter

And to think, had Jesse Ryder not pulled himself out of the reckoning for the World Cup, Martin Guptill may not have batted today. Dumped from the Test team in 2013 and far from his best in the months leading upto the selection of the New Zealand squad for the tournament, the 28-year-old opener would not have been many people's pick to take the plaudits at the end of a one-sided quarter-final which ended in a 143-run drubbing of West Indies.

But Guptill enjoys the team management's faith, which is why he was selected and given an extended run as opener in the tournament. And on Saturday at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, Guptill repaid the faith by scoring the first double-century by a New Zealand batsman in ODIs - 237 not out from 163 balls, the second-highest score in the format. It was, simply, gobsmacking.

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When New Zealand regrouped as a squad a week before the start of the World Cup, there was a degree of uncertainty as to how Guptill might perform amid a lean run of form. In October, when South Africa landed for three ODIs, Guptill made 16 runs in two innings. Against Pakistan, he made 78 in three, scoring 58 in the second match. Next came Sri Lanka for seven ODIs, but three ducks in the series and only one score above 28 were poor returns. Scores of 39 and 76 were timely efforts going into two World Cup warm-ups at home, and 100 followed against Zimbabwe and then 26 against Sri Lanka.

Yet one got the feeling that Guptill was the weak link in a batting order bristling with intent. Brendon McCullum was the aggressor, scoring runs at a frenetic pace. At No 3, Kane Williamson was in the form of his life. Ross Taylor had scored runs too, and Grant Elliotts recall to the side was proving a masterstroke. Below them, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi were contributing.

"Still, if you had to really pick one player from this team capable of scoring an ODI double, it would be McCullum."

There was no doubt over Guptill's ability as a match-winner. The doubt was whether he could shrug off an overall poor season and give McCullum the necessary support up the order and, should he fail, drive the innings. When the World Cup began in Christchurch on February 14, these doubts were not dispelled. Guptill made 49, 17, 22, 11. The opening stands in these four games were 111, 18, 105 and 40. McCullum made blazing fifties in three of those.

Against Afghanistan, Guptill top-scored with 57 from 76 balls in a six-wicket chase of 187. Relief. Then came a match-winning 105 from 100 against Bangladesh when McCullum and Williamson failed. It was his first hundred in over a year. First in a World Cup. Progress. The gears were shifting. New Zealand won six in a row to enter the quarter-finals confidently. Still, if you had to really pick one player from this team capable of scoring an ODI double, it would be McCullum.

Even when Guptill drove the first ball of the match superbly down the ground for four, you could never have imagined it. When he was dropped on 4, you felt 'okay, a good day for Marty to make it count'. When he punched two more straight boundaries, the feeling was that he could get settled in.

Such was the crux of Guptill's defining innings. Sense the moment, seize it. His attitude spoke with the same thump as his bat. This was his day.

In this era of reverse-sweeps and paddles and ramps and scoops and whatever Glenn Maxwell pulls out on the day - hello, did you see his swat off Wahab Riaz yesterday? - Guptill's epic innings was one fashioned with hardly a slog. It was clean hitting, effortless hitting. Through the covers, down the ground, between mid-on and midwicket, over the infield, along the ground - this was batting simplified. No frills, no risks.

What was most startling was his legside play. When Guptill swings to the on, it rarely looks a slog. It is almost a golfer's swing. His body is still, his left foot firmly pointed towards mid-off. Such is his body position that he is allowed a free swing, and critically he is not cramped. His bat-speed is solid, and today it was just amazing, as exemplified by 126 on the leg side, 102 coming in 42 balls in the arc between midwicket and long-on.

The bowlers to suffer the most at this effortless pick-up skill were Jason Holder and Andre Russell, who veered too straight during the slog overs and craned their necks to follow the ball into the stands. One six off Russell in the 50th over was 110 meters and out of the stadium. There is a very, very thin margin when you're bowling to a batsman on a double-century in ODIs, as Holder and Russell found out.

"That is 60 percent of the team's runs."

It was such shots that took him from 100 to 200 in a mere 41 balls. Each of his 11 sixes came after he got to his century. Twelve fours came in that time too. He finished on 237 from 163 deliveries, batting through 50 overs. That is 60 percent of the team's runs. Ross Taylor's 42 was the next best. Guptill dominated stands of 143 with Taylor, scoring 99; 29 out of 46 with Corey Anderson; 23 out of 32 with Luke Ronchi; and 20 out of 28 with Daniel Vettori. Talk about a one-man show.

The feeling of scoring an ODI double has yet to sink in for Guptill, as he admitted after the match. It may take some time, considering how surreal he was today. What impact this has had on New Zealand will be told on Tuesday when they meet South Africa at Eden Park. Should they win there to find a place in the MCG final, Guptill's 237 may yet stand as the moment that lasts forever.

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