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Martin Guptill: New Zealand's most important one-day batsman?

Martin Guptill has only batted twice this year, but has made 112 and 61 Getty Images

Kane Williamson could well become recognised as New Zealand's greatest batsman. Ross Taylor has recently become their leading ODI century-maker. But there is a strong case to be made that Martin Guptill is their most important one-day batsman.

It's not an argument all will agree with, but it would make a good pub or grass-bank discussion.

Consider this: in the last two years, since the start of the 2015 World Cup, Guptill is one of only two batsmen to have scored more than 2000 ODI runs. The other is David Warner. Like Warner, Guptill's runs have come at better than a run-a-ball - albeit by a fraction. In that time, he has also scored the most centuries by a New Zealand batsman: six, to Taylor's five (Williamson has two).

Guptill's numbers dip a little if you make a cut-off from the start of 2016 - Williamson becomes the leading New Zealand run-scorer, but Guptill's average is a tick higher and the strike-rate is 98.37.

Unlike Williamson and Taylor, Guptill has never cracked Test cricket. His average sits a nudge under 30 and he is once again out of the side with New Zealand opting for Tom Latham, who appears set to be dropped from the one-day side after a string of low scores, and Jeet Raval at the top of the order.

However, in white-ball cricket he is supreme. No wonder there is a weight of expectation on his shoulders as he returns for the must-win fourth ODI against South Africa. Injuries to each hamstring have restricted him to two innings - worth the small matter of 112 in the Ford Trophy and 61 against Australia - in the last two months, but he is taking it in his stride.

"That is what it is I guess. I'm looking forward to getting back in there," he said. "It's exciting, 2-1 down in the series with two games to win. It can't get much better than that. It does feel like a while since I've been with the team, but hopefully I'll fit straight back in."

Is there a concern the injuries could have burst his bubble? "I'm not going to know until I get out there," he said. "I've had a good couple of nets in that last couple of days, but that's the nets and I haven't faced bowlers for a while. Today will be another level of training, so hopefully I can get the rhythm back I had earlier in the summer."

Facing South Africa will bring Guptill up against the opposition he has fared least well against from those he has faced regularly. He averages 22.07 against them with his next-leanest return being 30.80 against India. But there is a silver lining in that South Africa record. His last-but-one innings against them was an unbeaten 103 in Potchefstroom. The attack included Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir so it wasn't handed on a plate (although he was offered three lives).

It was an innings Guptill recalled when looking ahead to the Hamilton match, not because of the milestone but because of the early use of spin by South Africa. Guptill's memory was a little fuzzy: he said Tahir opened the bowling and Aaron Phangiso was also used early. It was actually the other way round, Phangiso with the new ball and Tahir came on the 11th over. But the point remains valid.

The pitch at Seddon Park is expected to take turn, which could mean a recall for left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi and prospect of spin in the first 10 overs. "It wouldn't be the first time they've done that," he said. "At the end of the day it's about adapting. India have done it plenty of times to us as well."