EAST LONDON, South Africa - Martin Guptill returned from illness to hit a four off the last ball and claim a brilliant match-winning century and series-levelling victory for New Zealand in the second of three Twenty20s against South Africa on Sunday.
With Guptill on 97, New Zealand needed four off the last ball to win and the opener scooped a low full toss from Rory Kleinveldt over the cover fielders and to the rope for a dramatic victory.
Having recovered from a stomach complaint that kept him out of New Zealand's heavy loss in the first game, Guptill clobbered six sixes in his 101 not out from 69 balls to better South Africa's challenging 165-5 and earn the Black Caps an eight-wicket win at Buffalo Park.
New Zealand reached 169-2 after its target was readjusted because of a floodlight delay earlier in the game that reduced it to 19 overs per side.
Guptill shared a 76-run opening partnership with Rob Nicol (25) and a 73-run stand with captain Brendon McCullum (17), but he completely dominated both of those and New Zealand's entire innings, timing his chase just right in the thrilling last-ball win.
"I feel a whole lot better than two days ago," Guptill said after having spent the last few days confined to his bedroom with illness.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis and opening batsman Henry Davids earlier made half-centuries for the home team to take it to a strong total and give it a good chance to wrap up the three-game T20 series with a match to spare.
But Guptill's first century in T20 internationals ensured the Black Caps were still fighting ahead of the series decider down the coast in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.
Missing a string of experienced players and still trying to shake off the unsettling exit of Ross Taylor as captain, New Zealand produced a gutsy fightback following a sobering eight-wicket loss in the tour-opening international two days ago.
"Martin Guptill's innings was top drawer," new skipper McCullum said. "A phenomenal effort from a guy who has hardly left his room in the last couple of days."
Boosted by Davids' rapid start and the in-form Du Plessis' 63 from 43 balls, South Africa was going strongly until the floodlight failure with four overs of its innings to go.
After a lengthy delay, the teams returned with umpires opting to play on in diminished light and Doug Bracewell (3-33) took three wickets in the final over of the Proteas' innings to begin New Zealand's revival.
Guptill started cautiously and earned some late luck when he was caught off a no ball and then dropped on 89 as Robin Peterson couldn't hold onto a high, swirling catch.
The right-hander had accelerated when New Zealand needed it, though, eventually hitting nine fours and his six maximums in his man-of-the-match-winning performance.
"We didn't play a bad game, we were just outplayed by a great knock," South Africa captain Du Plessis said.
The teams wrap up the T20 series next week before two tests and three one-day internationals.
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