Who would rise to the occasion of a World Cup quarter-final? The public expectation was on Brendon McCullum. Martin Crowe thought it could be Kane Williamson. It might even have been a day for Ross Taylor to emerge from his stupor and pepper deep midwicket with his slog sweep. In the end, it was none of them.

It was a surprise when McCullum decided to bat. Although he has only had the choice of what to do twice in the tournament he has bowled both times so it was a departure from the perceived preference, especially on the ground where the ball had swung when Tim Southee dismantled England. Then McCullum departed in the fifth over, skying a catch to cover, and scenario was laid: knockout match, needing to set a target, and the talisman was gone.

Step forward Martin Guptill. Over 50 overs, three-and-a-half hours of batting, he wrote himself a place in history with the highest score in the World Cup. Chris Gayle, the previous record-holder with his 215 against Zimbabwe early in the tournament, offered his congratulations. "He came up and said 'congratulations, welcome to the club," Guptill said. It was also the second highest in all ODIs behind Rohit Sharma's 264.

Dropped on 4, as was Rohit in his record-breaking innings, he produced a magnificently structured innings. His four fifties came off 64, 47, 23 and 18 deliveries. Such is the modern tempo of the one-day game, and the feats at this World Cup, that when he reached his hundred in the 35th over and started to unleash with the Powerplay there were already murmurings of a double hundred. Those are the expectations these days.

Still, whatever the theories about heavy bats, small boundaries and poor bowling - and there was certainly a lot of the latter - to sustain such hitting for a long period remains breathtaking. Twice he hammered sixes over 100 metres, the second of them onto the roof which led to a (non-offensive) two-finger signal to Craig McMillan, the batting coach. "He's had one on the roof and I've hit two," Guptill explained.

The noise in the Cake Tin as Guptill approached the landmark was something to behold. There were 30,000 people chanting Guptill's name. The straight drive which brought the 200 led to a prolonged standing ovation as a nation acclaimed its latest hero. "It was pretty cool," he said. "I've never had anything like that before. For it to be in New Zealand is even better and for it to be a quarter-final."

Guptill had already been the holder of New Zealand's highest ODI score - the unbeaten 189 he made against England in Southampton in 2013 - but he was not a player revered in this country the same way as the earlier names mentioned or the likes of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori. Now, his life will never be the same again.

Previously his career has often been viewed as much with frustration as with admiration. It was possible to understand why. The stroke-making ability, so evident in that Southampton innings and now this one in Wellington, was rarely in doubt but sustaining an innings became a problem. Since the 189 until the start of the World Cup he averaged 27.57 with one hundred, although that did include a period either side of ankle surgery. As recently as January, when he collected to first-ball ducks against Sri Lanka, there were calls for him to be replaced by Tom Latham.

However, a hallmark of New Zealand's World Cup planning has been the faith shown in those they believe are key players. Guptill was viewed as the man most capable of providing the punch they wanted at the top of the innings alongside McCullum.

A hundred in the warm-up match against Zimbabwe, when most of his team-mates failed, was a timely boost. He looked at ease during the opening innings of the tournament against Sri Lanka, but as to encapsulate the preceding problems he nicked off for 49.

That was followed by scores of 17, 22 and 11 against Scotland, England and Australia. The middle one was in the slipstream of McCullum's own Wellington onslaught against England so there were not many runs left for him to score, but with each of New Zealand's victories being dissected his four-match tally of 99 runs came under the spotlight.

Then he faced Afghanistan and scored 57 against a hard-working attack that gained many plaudits in the tournament. It was not his toughest innings, but they were not freebie runs. He went up another level against Bangladesh with New Zealand's first hundred of the tournament to marshal a demanding chase. There were also hours and hours in the nets, on the bowling machine with guidance from Crowe who remains a mentor.

"It hasn't just appeared on the day, it's been a year of work," Crowe told ESPNcricinfo's Match Point show. "He worked in the nets changing his technique, getting both feet active, looking to play the ball straighter. We know he's a straight hitter but it's the defence he has worked harder on. Between all of those fours and sixes he played a good defensive game. That's the key to batsmanship; the defensive shots, the running between the wickets, all those things are a little more subtle than the big six hits. They make up a batsman."

He also had some last-minute advice. "He texted yesterday and said try to hit the gaps, it was nice to hear from him," Guptill said. Gaps were hit, so were stands and the roof.

The form was coming; Guptill has always insisted he felt on the edge of something substantial. What occurred, though, was beyond anyone's comprehension. "I'm still not really sure what's happened," he said. "It hasn't really sunk in yet."

That sentiment probably applies to all those who witnessed or heard about it.