Cricketer of the Week (March 16-22): Martin Guptill
The right-hander wins the tag for his double-hundred against the West Indies at Wellington on Saturday.
For the second consecutive time in a row, we have seen co-hosts perform very well in a World Cup. India lost just a solitary game to South Africa, en route to lifting the title in front of home fans in Mumbai in 2011.
This time, around, it's the turn of New Zealand, who have been extremely dominant in the tournament and as they headed into the quarter-finals against West Indies in Wellington on Saturday, they were certainly considered the favourites to make it seven in a row in the current competition.
Brendon McCullum won the toss and elected to bat first, but didn't get off to best of starts himself, returning back to the pavilion in the 5th over for 12.
Makes the West Indies pay for the drop chance
His opening partner, Martin Guptill though, looked set to carry on from where he had left off in the game against Bangladesh, getting off the mark with the very first ball of the day with a boundary off Jerome Taylor.
He was given a big reprieve in the same over when Marlon Samuels dropped him at Square leg and he made full use of that lifeline by carting the West Indies to a spree of boundaries.
The 28-year-old got to his 50 in just 64 balls with a single of Andre Russell in the 20th over of the innings and then further increased the rate after reaching that mark.
He got to his 7th ODI hundred off 111 balls with a single off Samuels in the 35th over, following which he went into overdrive, smashing the bowlers to all parts of the Westpac Stadium in Wellington and providing terrific entertainment for the fans present at the venue.
It took him a mere 24 balls to score his next fifty runs and his onslaught meant that the Blackcaps were well on course to post a mammoth total.
The right-hander crossed his previous best of 189* that he made against England at the Rose Bowl in 2013 and became the first New Zealand batsman and the fifth overall to register a double-hundred in 50-over cricket with a four of Russell and then also crossed the highest individual score made by any batsman in World Cup history in the same over, crossing the 215 made by Chris Gayle in the same edition against Zimbabwe, with yet another sizzling boundary.
He eventually finished on 237 not out off 163 balls with 24 fours and 11 sixes and that innings helped his post an imposing 393 for 6 in their 50 overs. That score is also the second highest total made by an individual in the history of 50-over cricket, only behind Rohit Sharma's 264 against Sri Lanka in Kolkata last year.
The West Indies got off to a horrendous start, losing Johnson Charles and Lendl Simmons cheaply, but Chris Gayle kept them in the game for a brief while by scoring a fair rate even and ensuring that the asking rate didn't escalate to unreasonable levels.
But once he fell for 61, the West indies chances of pulling off a thrilling win also dwindled and despite some late hitting from Russell and captain Jason Holder, they were bowled out for 250 runs in the 31st over, thereby handing the Kiwis a 143-run win.
Guptill was expectedly named the player of the Match for his performance.
Quickest outfield I have played on: Guptill
Talking about the effort at the post-match presentation, the Auckland-born batsman said that it was a conscious decision on his part to hit fours after reaching the three-figure mark and also admitted that a fast outfield made the job easier for him.
"After I got the hundred, I just thought I should probably hit a few boundaries. The quickest outfield I have played on here. You got value for your shots," he said.
New Zealand have received praises for their exploits with the ball from several quarters, specifically the performance of the new ball bowling pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult but the likes of Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and the rest have also played a equally critical role to help their side reach the final four of the World Cup and Guptill’s double-hundred further augurs well for a side, that has a real chance of lifting its maiden Word Cup title in less than a week’s time in Melbourne.