Levi hits fastest ton in SA victory
South Africa 174 for 2 (Levi 117*, de Villiers 38*) beat New Zealand 173 for 4 (Guptill 47, Botha 1-22) by eight wickets
A combination of a flat pitch and especially small boundaries provided the ideal opportunity for a powerful batsman to break a record at sold-out Seddon Park. And Richard Levi, playing only his second international match, took it. He hit the most sixes in a Twenty20 innings - 13 - on his way to the fastest hundred in the format, off 45 balls, and made New Zealand's 173 look at least 50 short of a par score.
So brutal was Levi during his 117 off 51 balls, a maiden Twenty20 international century for South Africa, that the run-rate rarely dropped below 10 after the first over. They cruised to the target with four overs to spare, leveling the series 1-1 with the decider in Auckland.
Levi was fortuitous in the first over, when a top-edged sweep carried well over the fine-leg boundary. Nathan McCullum was the bowler so the ball didn't even have much pace on it. Seddon Park was that small. Levi's next boundary was more convincing, a mow off Doug Bracewell high into the stands at backward square leg, and he barely mistimed any after that. He took on everyone, including the feisty Tim Southee, who tried to repeat the short-ball attack that dismissed Levi in Wellington. It did not work in Hamilton.
Hashim Amla holed out to long-off and Wayne Parnell, promoted to No. 3 to have a go, was stumped, but neither of those dismissals deterred Levi. One of his sixes smacked the television floor manager on the back of the head, another went over the team dug-outs, another was flat-batted off a slower ball and a fourth bounced on the road outside the ground. South Africa had scored 63 for 2 before the fielding restrictions were lifted.
Not that it mattered. Levi brought up his fifty off 25 balls with his only single on the off side at that point. Most of his sixes were down the ground or over the leg-side boundary. His next fifty runs came even quicker - off 20 balls - and Levi joined Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum as the only Twenty20 international centurions.
New Zealand were unable to force Levi to play on the off-side but as his innings progressed, Levi hit them in that area as well. Southee conceded 40 runs in four overs and Bracewell 37, his second and last over containing two sixes and a four from Levi.
AB de Villiers was a spectator to the display of muscle, but even as a supporting act, he managed 39 off 36 balls. He also hit the last four through mid-on to earn his first win as Twenty20 captain.
That New Zealand made only so much in near-perfect batting conditions, however, was down to South Africa's much-improved performance in the field. De Villiers managed his bowlers better than he did in Wellington to restrict the hosts, when they had looked set for much more after reaching 79 for 1 in ten overs.
The only wicket to fall in the first half of New Zealand's innings was via a run-out. Rob Nicol took on De Villiers' arm after he missed a pull against Marchant de Lange and the ball landed behind the stumps. Guptill raced through in time but De Villiers threw at the bowler's end and his direct hit had a diving Nicol well short. And after the loss of their lynchpin, Guptill, New Zealand stuttered through the second part of their innings.
Guptill had continued his good form and was on track to score his seventh consecutive international half-century, but fell for 47, top edging a hook to deep backward square. It gave the debutant de Lange his first international T20 wicket in just his second game in this format.
Guptill's dismissal allowed South Africa to drag New Zealand back and claim the wicket of Brendon McCullum. Johan Botha, who had opened the bowling, was the architect of stemming the run flow. He and JP Duminy helped keep New Zealand to 41 runs between overs 10 and 15.
New Zealand were in danger of falling well short of a par score, when Franklin stepped up. Fresh from his 60 against Zimbabwe at this venue four days ago, Franklin cleared the boundary four times in his 10-ball 28. Parnell and de Lange, however, were able to keep New Zealand to 14 in the last two overs against an unsure Colin de Grandhomme.
In the end, however, no total may have been large enough for Levi.