Martin Guptill was in full form after returning back to injury in the 4th ODI    Getty Images
Martin Guptill was in full form after returning back from injury in the 4th ODI Getty Images

New Zealand emerged victorious by 7 wickets in the fourth ODI of the five-match series versus South Africa, setting up the final game as the series decider Chasing 280, the Kiwis dominated proceedings on a difficult turf courtesy a brilliant innings by the comeback man, Martin Guptill. Guptill, returning from a hamstring injury, looked nonchalant and timed the balls with the sweet part of the willow against the South African bowlers. He remained unbeaten at 180 to see his side home with 5 overs remaining. New Zealand, with this win, have kept the series alive with all to play for in the decider on Saturday. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs South Africa, 4th ODI at Hamilton

Opting to bat, South Africa started off poorly. With consecutive fifties in the first three matches, Quinton de Kock was destined for a big innings but was dismissed for no score. New Zealand started with spinners from both ends (first such instance for hosts at home) which exposed how the pitch was expected to behave in the game. Jeetan Patel sent de Kock back in the very first over. Mitchell Santner held his end before Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis began South Africa s fightback.

Amla looked in sublime touch especially against the pace battery comprising of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. He waited for the ball to come onto the bat and exhibited some brilliant strokes in his 38-ball 40. He punished Boult in particular and stitched a 50-run stand with du Plessis before falling for a premeditated shot, off Patel. JP Duminy came in the middle to keep the left-hand right-hand combination going. The duo struck another fifty-run stand as Kane Williamson kept on rotating his bowlers. The surface was sticking up with the ball not coming onto the bat easily.

Southee, Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham were given the responsibility to chip in with wickets and the spearhead did not disappoint. Duminy chopped one onto the stumps off Southee which triggered a middle order collapse for the visitors. Du Plessis got to his fifty but was kept under check with some tidy spells from Neesham and Santner. Neesham took Southee’s path and used the slower balls judiciously. While Southee bowled the off cutters, Neesham presented good use of variations with leg cutters and full length deliveries. The cross seam bowling worked well for the all-rounder and was rewarded by dismissing du Plessis (67).

From 128 for 2, Proteas succumbed to 158 for 6. Du Plessis, David Miller and Dwaine Pretorius were sitting back in the hut but AB de Villiers remained at one end. He found company in form of Chris Morris as the pair added some vital runs in the last 10 overs. De Villiers (72 not out) kept composure amidst collapse and timed his innings to bring up his 52nd fifty.

Morris was followed by Wayne Parnell who tarnished Kiwi pacers for missing their length as Proteas added 72 runs in the last five overs. South Africa had the advantage going into the innings break with the ball expected to spin and a slow track to test the Kiwi batsmen fully.

In reply, New Zealand lost Dean Brownlie early. The right-hander got to some starts in the first two encounters but missed out in the previous game. His lack of form continued again as Williamson joined Guptill in the middle. The pair took some time to kickoff but began to accelerate once they got their eye in.

Nonetheless, the breakthrough was provided by de Villiers’ go-to-man, Imran Tahir. Tahir struck in his very first over to send Williamson back for 21. The skipper played a sweep off Tahir but missed the length to be trapped lbw. It was expected that Tahir’s spell will determine the outcome of the game and he got rid of Kiwis’ main weapon instantly.

However, what followed made the contest a one-way traffic at Hamilton. The hosts’, led by Guptill and Ross Taylor, stitched their highest-ever ODI partnership versus South Africa to push them completely out of the game. The duo added 180-run stand with Guptill being in a punishing mode. He blasted Pretorius and Parnell in particular and played out Tahir and Kagiso Rabada sensibly. Taylor was slow to begin but did not get bogged down to provide assistance in the middle with 66.

De Villiers tried his luck by rotating the bowlers and not allowing the batsmen to settle in but found no luck. It was a spirited effort by the New Zealand batsmen to earn a victory on a slow track under lights. Remember, this was the same side who got bundled out for 112 chasing 272 in Wellington.

With Guptill notching up the highest score by a New Zealander against South Africa (second highest individual score at Hamilton) and becoming the first to have three scores in excess of 180, the final ODI is set up beautifully. A riveting contest maybe on cards to sum up an intense five-match series, at Eden Park, Auckland.

Brief scores:

South Africa 279 for 8 in 50 overs (Hashim Amla 40, Faf du Plessis 67, AB de Villiers 72*; Jeetan Patel 2 for 57, Mitchell Santner 1 for 40) lose to New Zealand 280 for 3 (Martin Guptill 180*, Ross Taylor 66; Imran Tahir 2 for 56, Kagiso Rabada 1 for 41) by 7 wickets.

FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: New Zealand vs South Africa, 4th ODI at Hamilton