Hamilton: Richard Levi hit a record 13 sixes on his way to the fastest century in Twenty20 international history on Sunday to give South Africa an eight-wicket win over New Zealand and level their three-match series at 1-1.
Levi eclipsed Chris Gayle's previous record of 10 sixes in a Twenty20 international innings. He also got his century from 45 balls, beating the mark of 50 balls that Gayle shared with New Zealand's Brendon McCullum.
Levi finished 117 not out from 51 deliveries at a strike rate of 229 as South Africa reached 174-2 in 16 overs in reply to New Zealand's innings of 173-4.
The third and deciding match is at Auckland on Wednesday.
New Zealand's total always looked inadequate on a flat pitch and with the short and inviting boundaries at Hamilton's Seddon Park. But Levi made the winning target look insignificant as he atoned for South Africa's insipid six-wicket loss in Friday's opening match.
He hit a six from the first over bowled by off-spinner Nathan McCullum and two more in taking 16 runs from the second over bowled by Doug Bracewell. New Zealand's bowlers strayed to the leg side and Levi cashed in, hoisting the ball over the shortest boundaries on the ground to reach his 50 from only 25 balls with six sixes and two fours.
He lifted South Africa to 51-2 after five overs and to 105-2 after 10, scoring at more than two runs per ball.
Levi first matched then surpassed Gayle's record of 10 sixes — for the West Indies against South Africa — when he hit successive sixes off Bracewell in the 12th over, the first down the ground and the second over square leg.
At that stage he had scored 90 runs off 40 balls and he didn't break his stride as he went to 96 with his 11th six and to his century four balls later. He had scored 100 of South Africa's 140 runs at that point in only 54 minutes, from 45 balls and with three fours and 12 sixes.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers stayed with Levi for most of his innings, quietly compiling 39 from 36 balls which paled into insignificance in comparison to the effort of the right-handed opener.
"It was good fun," Levi said. "It seemed every shot I played seemed to come off. I can't believe the match is over, to be honest. The 20 overs seemed to go so fast.
"I didn't know about either of the records but it's just one of those things that happened and I hope I can do it again."
De Villiers was happy to be a spectator with a box seat to one of the best batting displays in international cricket.
"I tried to talk him into settling for 10 runs an over with a single off the last ball which was all we needed but he just kept hitting it out of the ground," de Villiers said.
"We're all very proud of Richard. He's done it before so I can't say it's a once in a lifetime innings. He's an amazing player and a great prospect for us."
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum realized his team had fallen well short of a competitive total when it was held to 173 on a ground on which 190 to 200 runs is par in a Twenty20 match.
Opener Martin Guptill was out for 47 off 35 balls, falling just short of his seventh-straight half century in international innings. McCullum made 35 and James Franklin 28 from 10 balls with four sixes.
South Africa learned the lessons of its first match loss to New Zealand, taking a leaf from the Kiwis' book and opening the bowling with off-spinner Johan Botha who bowled his four overs at a cost of only 22 runs.
It also fielded more sharply than at Wellington and had the best of the pitch that quickened under the floodlights later in the evening.
"I would have liked 190 to 200 but when someone comes out and plays an innings like that, there's not much you can do," McCullum said.
"He wouldn't allow us to bowl well. I thought he played an absolutely unbelievable innings and there was nothing we could do to pull him back."