Stunning Guptill sends New Zealand to World Cup semis

Black Caps opener smashes Chris Gayle’s record as co-hosts hammer West Indies

West Indies are on their way home from the World Cup, bruised and brutalized to a 143-run defeat in Wellington by a rampant Black Caps team, who now go to Auckland where they will face South Africa in the first semi-final on Tuesday. Hang on to your hats.

Jason Holder and his side had no adequate answer to the sheer power of the New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, who shattered record after record on his way to an unbeaten 237, the highest score ever made in a World Cup, and one that only Rohit Sharma, who made 260 for India against Sri Lanka last year, has exceeded in any ODI. The one-day game is advancing so fast and far into another galaxy in terms of scores that it will soon require the Hubble telescope to keep tracks.

There was little chance of West Indies overhauling New Zealand's mammoth 393 for six, although Chris Gayle, severely hampered by his back injury (it can be hard to tell whether it isn't just his natural aversion to any unnecessary exertion) and in what may yet prove to be his final match for them such is his physical condition now, simply stood and belted 61 from 33 balls, with eight sixes, before the pace of Adam Milne proved too much.

By this time though Trent Boult, largely avoiding having to bowl to Gayle, had already taken the first four wickets to fall, one of them to an astounding leaping one-handed catch by Dan Vettori on the deep point boundary that got rid of Marlon Samuels. Once he had gone it was always going to be little more than a series of bugle-charges with an inevitable end. There was some indignity suffered by Tim Southee, whose eight overs conceded 82 runs, and indeed the masterful Vettori, both of whom were unceremoniously clobbered by Gayle. But Boult somehow managed to deliver three maiden overs in amongst it all, and finished with four for 44 as West Indies were bowled out for 250 in a shade over 30 overs.


So in a competition that has offered much to enjoy in the past five weeks, the four indisputably best teams will contest the semi-finals. Clearly South Africa will have the better training period heading in to the game, and, frankly, the two days grace that New Zealand are allowed now, one of them a travel day, between two matches of such high intensity, is unfair. But Brendon McCullum’s side are riding a crest and the support at Eden Park promises to get the adrenaline pumping through even the most weary of bodies. It promises to be quite a spectacle.

The innings played by Guptill was remarkable not just for the runs he made but the manner in which they came. When it comes to batsmanship, this, we are constantly being told, is the age of invention: of flicks and flamingos, ramps and reverses, switch-hits and sixes, IPLs and Big Bashes. Except nobody appears to have told him, for if this, ultimately, was a display of power-hitting delivered by a tall fellow with long levers and a penchant for the front foot, then it was the orthodoxy of it all that caught the eye, utterly without recourse to frills or frippery: no dancing down the pitch, or moving around the crease.

Perhaps the emphatic way in which he stroked the first ball of the match straight back past the bowler Jerome Taylor for his first boundary told of a man in form, coming on the back if his 105 in New Zealand's last match against Bangladesh. That the ball, which barely made the rope, was chased idly also told something of West Indies, and two balls later, Marlon Samuels, at midwicket dropped at knee height one of the most expensive catches in ODI history (although curiously, Sharma had been missed on the same score on the way to his

massive total).

From thereon in, Guptill and New Zealand were relentless, adhering to a template which offered an incendiary start ( although for once McCullum failed), followed by the careful construction of a solid base, a period of play characterised by urgent seat-of-the-pants running between the wickets, and then, when the second power play arrived with 15 overs and eight wickets to spare, a breathtaking display of pyrotechnics that saw 206 runs come in the period, 153 of them in the last 10 overs. In fact, for all he made a rapid start, Guptill worked hard for his runs early on, his first 50 coming from 64 balls as he began to master the surface.

It took 47 more balls to reach his century, and at that stage, with the power play imminent, he had hit half of his two dozen boundaries but was yet to hit a single one of his eventual 11 sixes, one of which was so massive it cleared the roof of the stadium and was last seen heading for the South Island on the Picton Ferry.

From then on it was a case of scrubbing out records and writing in new ones. He was already the first New Zealander to score back-to-back world cup hundreds. His third half century required only 23 balls and when he clouted Holder over the ropes to reach 174, he became his country’s highest scorer in the World Cup, eclipsing Glenn Turner’s 171 against East Africa in 1975. Next in his sights was his own Kiwi record of 189 not out, achieved against England at the Ageas Bowl a little under two years ago, and when he moved to 217 he had passed Gayle’s 215 made against Zimbabwe only last month as the highest ever World Cup score. 163 balls in all were what his innings required, from 65 of which he failed to score. We can leave you to do the maths.