Levi squares series for South Africa

Richard Levi belted the New Zealand bowlers in a record setting exhibition as South Africa levelled the Twenty20 series with one match to play against the BLACKACPS in The National Bank Series.

Levi thrashed a thunderous 117 not out off 51 balls as the tourists drew level at 1-1 in the series ahead of the third and deciding encounter at Auckland on Wednesday.

He belted a world record Twenty20 international 13 sixes as he bullied the New Zealanders into submission as they vainly attempted to defend their 173 for four at Hamilton’s Seddon Park.

Along the way he posted the fastest Twenty20 international century on record, taking 45 balls to reach three figures and beat by five balls the previous quickest, a record shared by New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and West Indian Chris Gayle, the latter of whom also held the previous benchmark of sixes in an innings with 10.

Levi simply could not be contained and no bowler was spared punishment as the tourists romped home with eight wickets and 24 balls to spare on the back of his blazing blade.

He pulverised the New Zealand bowlers, who were guilty of missing their lengths but in the face of such an onslaught it’s high debatable anything short of perfection would have held the South African back.

South African skipper AB de Villiers and Levi put on an unbeaten 133 for the second wicket, the captain’s share being 39 not out off 36 balls as he fed the big hitter the strike at every opportunity. 

Earlier, New Zealand’s 173 for four contained a series of handy efforts without an individual standout.

The in-form Martin Guptill again topscored at the top of the innings with 47 off 35 balls after he and Rob Nicol made 37 for the first wicket in 4.3 overs.

Nicol departed for 23 off 17 when wicketkeeper AB de Villiers made a direct hit to affect a runout, then Guptill and Brendon McCullum put on 60 before Guptill, with seven fours and a lone six, top edged a short, sharp ball from debutant fast bowler Marchant de Lange to third man.

McCullum clipped and timed the ball nicely in making 35 off 31 until he mishit offspinner Johan Botha to deepish mid wicket and then James Franklin entertained with a 10-ball cameo for 28.

The tall left-hander twice struck successive sixes, firstly off de Lange over long on and third man then off offspinner JP Duminy over long off and long on to give the New Zealanders much needed momentum in the 16th and 17th overs.

His dismissal off the fifth ball of the 17th over left Kane Williamson to do his best with 28 off 20 as the hosts at least set a defendable target. Defendable, that is, without Levi part of the equation.

Botha, who delivered the first over, was the most economical of the bowlers in taking off for 22 off four, while the long striding de Lange deserved better than his one for 43 off four.

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