Levi’s unbelievable 117 not out saw South Africa cruise to their target of 174 in 16 overs as the muscular Capetonian’s journey to international fame took him just 51 balls and included five fours and 13 sixes.
It was not only the first century for South Africa in T20 internationals, but the quickest century in this format of the game and the most sixes in an innings. Levi reached his hundred off just 45 balls, shattering the record of 50 balls set previously by Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, and he stole another record from the legendary West Indian with his 13 sixes bettering the left-hander’s previous mark of 10.
Levi’s sheer strength and ability to hit the ball back over long-on was an absolute nightmare for the Kiwis and he would have given some Major League baseballers a run for their money with his amazing flat-bat bashes down the ground.
The short but stocky Levi ensured all the attention was on him, brushing aside the early loss of Hashim Amla for two and Wayne Parnell (mysteriously sent up the order) for four.
Amla is under pressure to be in the team for the World T20 later this year and he tried to drive his third ball over the top of the infield. But Nathan McCullum is a skilful off-spinner and he had held the delivery back, Amla going too early on the shot and skewing the ball high to a back-pedalling James Franklin at mid-off.
Parnell is a strange choice of pinch-hitter when someone like Albie Morkel is in the team and the experiment was over after just six balls as he lost his balance trying to swipe part-time spinner Rob Nicol over the leg-side and was neatly stumped by Brendon McCullum.
But South Africa were already 41 for two in the fifth over, with Levi on 29, and the Wynberg Boys High product then simply overwhelmed the New Zealand attack.
It would be diplomatic to say Levi favours the leg-side, but it was the sensible option on Sunday as Seddon Park is a small ground and the bowlers rather stupidly either bowled short or length to him.
AB de Villiers operated as the junior partner as he cruised to 39 not out off 36 balls in an unbroken South African record third-wicket stand of 133. The captain looked in good touch as he collected four fours.
Spinners Nathan McCullum (2-0-18-1) and Roneel Hira (4-0-34-0) were the only New Zealand bowlers who could consider themselves relatively unscathed, but Kiwi supporters will be wondering why James Franklin only bowled a single over that cost seven runs. The left-armer, bowling over the wicket and angling the ball away from Levi, was the only bowler who kept him quiet.
Pace bowlers Doug Bracewell (2-0-37-0), Kyle Mills (2-0-26-0) and Tim Southee (4-0-40-0) will be less chirpy than they were in the first T20 international after being bludgeoned all over Seddon Park on Sunday.
SOLID, BUT UNSPECTACULAR
New Zealand had batted solidly but unspectacularly as they amassed a so-so 173 for four in their 20 overs.
England’s Women scored 166 for seven on the same ground just a few hours earlier and the small boundaries and quick outfield at the rural ground gave South Africa’s batsmen plenty of hope.
South Africa’s attack was fiery but lacked a bit of accuracy in terms of line, too many balls sliding down the leg side.
Martin Guptill once again raced New Zealand, who had been sent in to bat, to a good start, scoring 47 off just 35 balls before trying to duck and hook at the same time and top-edging fast bowler Marchant de Lange to fine leg.
De Lange’s extra pace had earlier helped dismiss fellow opener Rob Nicol for 23, but it was the brilliant work of AB de Villiers that drew the most applause, after the South African captain had gathered the ball from an attempted pull shot that came off the body and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end.
The New Zealand captain, Brendon McCullum, dominated the third quarter of the innings with his 35 off 31 balls, before the wiles of the off-spinner Johan Botha, the best of the South African bowlers with 1-22 in four overs, dismissed him, Justin Ontong taking a good catch running in from the cow-corner boundary.
James Franklin is one of those guys South African cricket fans don’t rate highly enough, but the left-hander showed his ability on Sunday as he ignited the final quarter of the innings with four sixes off five balls. Marchant de Lange and JP Duminy were the bowlers to suffer as Franklin lashed 28 off 10 balls.
But Morne Morkel then had Franklin caught behind with a hard-to-hit blockhole ball in the 18th over and New Zealand will be disappointed they could score just 12 runs off the last two overs.
Wayne Parnell and De Lange showed that they are certainly fighters as they put tough times earlier in the innings behind them to bowl excellent closing overs.
Kane Williamson finished with 28 not out off 20 balls and South Africa’s top-order needed to bat well.
Levi instead batted brilliantly to make it a no-contest.