While the Chappell-Hadlee opener was all about Australian captain Steve Smith, one New Zealand batsman can look back on the occasion and know he played one of his best innings in difficult circumstances.
In many ways, Martin Guptill was the story of the day, because of his defiance at the crease with tight odds against him and a weak middle order offering scant support.
Speculation and criticism has followed Guptill throughout his career. His place on the international stage should never be in question, but it always has been.
His difficulties in Test cricket, the purest form of the game, has seen many refer to Guptill as a ‘one-trick pony’ and a cricketer who can only pull great things out of the bag when he has his selection in the national team at stake.
The 30-year-old’s dumping from the Black Caps’ Test side for the recent home series against Pakistan marked another low point in his rollercoaster tenure in the whites.
But in Sydney and back in the coloured uniform, when nearly all the odds suggested he would throw his wicket away, Guptill led from the front and belted 114 runs that, in all honesty, should have seen New Zealand come a lot closer to victory than they did.
— Sir Ravindra Jadeja (@SirJadeja) December 4, 2016
Australia ended up winning by 68 runs, and after what was arguably his best knock for his country, albeit in a losing effort, the last thing Guptill wanted to talk about was himself.
“It’s disappointing. We know we’re better than that, we had the momentum at times but couldn’t maintain it,” Guptill said post-match.
The right-handed opener didn’t just notch another century to his belt in this run chase, he also reached another very special milestone. Guptill is the fastest New Zealand batsmen to reach 5,000 runs in ODI cricket, quicker to the milestone than some greats of the game – including Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis and Chris Gayle.
— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) December 5, 2016
His double-century in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final is one thing, but the manner in which Guptill went about his 102-ball innings at the SCG was, perhaps, far more memorable considering the odds that New Zealand were up against chasing such a big total. Everything had gone against the Kiwis until that point in the evening, and the probability of chasing down such a target meant that someone needed to go on and score a big one – and Guptill was nearly able to pull off victory for his team as well.
Guptill was asleep on the flight to Canberra earlier today, and rightly so – he more than anyone else in this team deserves a rest. The series resumes today, and New Zealand must win in order to keep their hopes of retaining the Chappell-Hadlee trophy alive.
“At the end of the day, we probably didn’t bowl as well as we could have in the middle stages and towards the end. We know that, and we’ve got training to come up with some plans to better ourselves,” Guptill said, quickly moving on from the series-opening loss.
“It’s an opportunity for us to go to Canberra and turn things around.”
FASTEST TO 5,000 ODI RUNS – NEW ZEALAND
132 – M Guptill
144 – R Taylor
147 – N Astle
180 – S Fleming
191 – B McCullum
FASTEST TO 5,000 ODI RUNS – WORLD
101 – H Amla
114 – V Richards
114 – V Kohli
118 – B Lara
121 – G Greenidge
124 – AB de Villiers
126 – S Ganguly
128 – D Jones
131 – G Smith
132 – M Guptill
MOST ODI CENTURIES – NEW ZEALAND
16 – Nathan Astle
15 – Ross Taylor
11 – Martin Guptill
8 – Kane Williamson
8 – Stephen Fleming