Chris Gayle played a typical whirlwind innings of destruction of the South African pace attack but in the end it was only just sufficient to get the West Indies over the line in the first T20 International against South Africa at Newlands on Friday evening. In the end the Windies won by four wickets with only four balls to spare. Yet, when Gayle was dismissed after having made 77 off 31 balls (5 fours and 8 mammoth sixes) the Caribbean cricketers needed only 52 off 55 balls with 8 wickets in hand.
It was a totally one-sided equation but his departure enabled the Proteas to establish a measure of control. Imran Tahir led the way by doing what was needed – taking wickets to stop the onslaught – and he finished with 3/28 off 4 overs. But the evening was all about Gayle.
He was merciless during the power play when he reached 50 off just 17 balls (5 fours and 5 sixes). Only Yuvraj Singh has scored a faster 50 off 12 balls for India against England at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20. The faster the South Africans bowled the further Gayle hit them and they may have to revise their tactics and use spin against him up front.
It is a tactic that has worked before. Kagiso Rabada (30 runs off 12 balls) and Wayne Parnell (20 runs off 6 balls) bore the brunt of the power play onslaught. Even Imran went for 20 off 9 while Kyle Abbott was fortunate that he bowled only 4 balls to Gayle (7 runs) while David Wiese did not bowl to him at all. The opening partnership between Gayle and Dwayne Smith was worth 78 off 37 balls before Imran got rid of Smith and when he had Gayle caught behind attempting a reverse sweep he had figures of 2/26 in 3.5.
The hosts won the toss and batted first and their total of 165/4 looked competitive until the magnificent Gayle arrived on the scene. Rilee Rossouw contributed an unbeaten 51 off 40 balls (5 fours) although Faf Du Plessis had the best strike rate of 190 (38 off 20 balls, 5 fours) but everything paled into insignificance when compared with Gayle’s strike rate of almost 250. It goes without saying that he was named Man of the Match.