LONDON • Plaudits poured in for "gem of a player" Kane Williamson who, with ice-cold nerves, guided New Zealand past South Africa's 241 for six in the Cricket World Cup with three balls to spare.
In the tightest match of the Cup so far on Wednesday, the last over arrived with his side still requiring eight and the captain had barely hit a ball cleanly in the previous hour.
But, with seven runs needed from five balls, he dropped to one knee to slog-sweep Andile Phehlukwayo over mid-wicket and into the Hollies Stand at Edgbaston for six.
With that one blow, he reached his hundred from 137 balls, ensured that the Black Caps would remain unbeaten at the top of the 10-team table and almost certainly ended South Africa's semi-final chances.
"This Williamson innings today is something else," former England captain and opening batsman Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter. "Under immense pressure he has played an old school gem... What a player... What a Ton..."
Former fast bowler and cricket journalist Mike Selvey joined the queue of cooing Englishmen.
He wrote: "There cannot be a batsman in the world less liable to panic than Kane Williamson."
There were no signs of Williamson's pulse quickening on a two-paced pitch that made scoring difficult as his side, from 72-1, lost in 20 balls the wickets of Martin Guptill (35), Ross Taylor and Tom Latham before slumping to 137-5.
Williamson's 91-run partnership with Colin de Grandhomme (60) saw their side through to the cusp of victory and the captain sealed it with a six to bring up his 12th ODI century and tie the scores.
He hit a four on the next ball for an unbeaten 106 and take New Zealand to 245-6 in a match reduced to 49 overs owing to rain.
Despite the accolades, the 28-year-old is notoriously self-effacing even in a country, where the default reaction to praise is an embarrassed, taciturn shrug of the shoulders before a stoic stare at the ground.
True to form, he praised de Grandhomme, saying: "The partnership and the knock from Colin was outstanding in terms of swinging that momentum, and he hit the ball beautifully.
Williamson, however, did receive some criticism for not "walking" when he had appeared to have got a thin edge from an Imran Tahir delivery, to Quinton de Kock.
Tahir appealed but the wicketkeeper was not interested and the team did not review the decision. Technology showed Williamson may have got an edge.
"Why didn't he walk?" former South African left-arm wrist spinner Paul Adams asked on Twitter.
Faf du Plessis, however, played down the incident.
"Even Kane said he didn't feel it," said the South Africa captain, who has now overseen just one win in six matches. "That's not where the game was won and lost.
"Kane played a great knock. It's probably the difference between the two sides, just one guy taking it through. You need someone to go further and we haven't had that."
His batsmen had struggled after being asked to bat first, low on confidence after three defeats in their first five matches.
De Kock's defences were breached by Trent Boult and du Plessis' stumps were shattered by Lockie Ferguson's spearing yorker on 23. But Hashim Amla chiselled out a half-century, Aiden Markram and David Miller made thirties, and Rassie van der Dussen finished unbeaten on 67 from 64 balls.
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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