The aesthetes can declare themselves most pleased. Another box in their wishlist was ticked by a touch player joining the band of double century scorers in ODIs. Martin Guptill is very easy on the eye as he sends the ball scampering to the fence with a deft touch and an inbuilt sense of timing rather than muscling them to the boundary and beyond in the most modern tradition of the big bashers.
Had anyone said the elegantly straight-driving Guptill would put his name up as the highest scorer ever in a World Cup match, he might have been recommended a visit to the psychiatrist or, better, to the betting tent to ask for odds on the feat, which would have been fancy indeed.
Very much a creature of the modern age, who is completely at home in the limited-overs arena, Guptill still eases them to the ropes with the touch of the stylist producing the most authentic drives.
He is one of the few with centuries in all three international formats — Test, ODI and T20 — even if his average in each one might not be something to crow about. What the Aucklander proved with his double century on Saturday is the sky is the limit these days in the shorter formats. Given a peach of a pitch on which every stroke fetched a good reward, Guptill’s naturally elegant game was sufficient to allow him to build to a state from which he could dictate terms without having to muscle the ball.
The fecklessness with which Marlon Samuels put down the early chance at short square leg made this Guptill’s day. A second chance to a modern batsman invariably means the regret will linger long in fielding teams. The speed at which they gather runs is phenomenal, for even a timer of the ball like the Kiwi opener can tear the bowlers to shreds with withering strokes to leg that were inevitably six in the smallish ‘Cake Tin’ of a new stadium in Wellington.
Guptill was so much in the zone that he seemed incapable of explaining how it all went in the middle. At the post-match on-field interview, he said the most inane things about partnerships and keeping it going.
Even he could not place a nub on how swimmingly things went for him as he caressed the ball into the straight field and in turn smashed it to the onside with such measured responses that the wagon wheel looked spherical with strokes in all directions.
It appears McCullum’s aggressive philosophy has rubbed off on all his colleagues and the once unfashionable Kiwis are now firm second favourites for the Cup behind only Australia, their trans-Tasman rivals who might not have done enough in history to help the cricket of the small nation across the pond.
The South African bowlers might be a different challenge but the form the Kiwis have run into makes them an awesome and worthy semifinalist with the desire to go all the way in this competition....