As Martin Guptill steered New Zealand to a seven-wicket victory in the fourth ODI against the Proteas on Wednesday with a magnificent unbeaten 180, one sequence stuck to one’s mind.
It was the two sixes in succession he hit off Imran Tahir’s final over – a slog-sweep off a googly and straight smash from a fuller ball.
Those hits messed up the leg-spinner’s figures (2/56) to such an extent that some are wondering if he’s lost his aura in this current ODI series.
It’s not a nice thought given that the series is now tied at 2-all going into Saturday’s decider in Auckland.
Tahir, the No 1 ranked bowler in limited overs internationals, indeed hasn’t quite been firing as four wickets at an average of 45 and economy rate of almost six suggests.
But AB de Villiers, the Proteas skipper, isn’t concerned.
“All the New Zealand batters are doing is respecting Imran a bit more,” he said.
“It happens when you have a match-winner in your ranks. The opposition tends to be more careful and work harder to try and play him well.
“We do the same. You try and be cautious against one of two key bowlers and then try and attack the rest. I think New Zealand have a similar approach. They played him really well.”
In a game where the Black Caps used two frontline spinners effectively, the Proteas might’ve rued only picking Tahir as tweaker.
Yet De Villiers can’t dwell on something like that.
“Guptill and co really just played well. I have no reason to believe it would’ve been different if there had been a second spinner present,” he said.
“The pitch didn’t turn as much as we expected.”
He’s hopeful Tahir will come into his own at the weekend.
“Eden Park has a quicker pitch. Imran enjoys pitches like that, where the turn is quicker as well.” said De Villiers.
“We saw in the T20 how effective he was. Quicker turn means he’s difficult to read. On a pitch like this one, you can misread him but because the pitch is slower there’s a window for adjusting.”