Gayle blows South Africa away

Chris Gayle and Chanderpaul (below) in full flow.-Pics: K.R.DEEPAK Chris Gayle and Chanderpaul (below) in full flow.

South Africa had a competitive total and fancied its chances against the West Indies. But then Gayle and Chanderpaul, with a breathtaking assault, put paid to its plans. A report by Vijay Lokapally.

The only time he concentrates on taking a single is when he is one run short of a century. Chris Gayle, with his 15th one-day hundred, slammed South Africa out of the Champions Trophy. It was an innings of immense power and timing that made the day for a near-capacity audience at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur.

It was a wonderful night. The crowd was treated to some intense cricket as South Africa, in a positive move, chose to set a target. But Gayle shattered its dreams with one of the finest batting displays in a long time. His lazy elegance propelled the West Indians into the final and the victory went a long way in erasing the bitter memories of the 5-0 pasting that South Africa had handed them at home the last time the two played.

"We have dissected the South Africans and have our plans in place," West Indies skipper Brian Lara had warned on the eve of the match. Well, he hardly needed any planning. A force called Gayle swept the South Africans off their feet. Lara heaped lavish praise on Gayle. "He is excellent. Gayle has always been a top player — with the bat, with the ball and in the field. He is very chirpy as well, and he has a great influence on the guys. He might seem a bit comical on occasions, but he takes his cricket very seriously. In the practice sessions, his preparation is great and he is reaping the rewards right now."

Gayle, whose sensational batting earned him the `Man of the Match' award for the third time in the tournament, confessed, "I'm a moody guy, very, very moody. You see me doing ridiculous things at times. Sometimes I talk to myself a lot and try to motivate myself. At other times I just try to relax, cracking a joke. I want to be involved in the game at all times."

After a languid walk to the middle and taking an easy stance, Gayle can be very devastating. He whips the ball with disdainful ease, demoralising the best of bowlers. Ask Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. They knew not where to bowl as Gayle was always in position to play strokes of quality.

South Africa's coach Mickey Arthur was honest. "When Chris Gayle plays well, West Indies will win. He scores his runs at such a rate." Gayle's runs came at a breathtaking pace, taking the West Indies to a comfortable victory with six overs to spare.

Would he like to watch himself when belting those bowlers? "I don't need to watch myself. I know I am flamboyant," Gayle said.

Did Lara expect it to be so easy? "Of course not. It's a semi-final and you are going to think that South Africa would come and throw everything at us," said the West Indian skipper.

The victory underlined West Indies' resurgence as the team made a mockery of the target. "Our one-day game has always been pretty good. It's just that we needed a little bit of fine-tuning. We were forced to play the qualifying round here, and that gave us a little bit of competitive cricket," said Lara.

Jerome Taylor perpetuates Graeme Smith's misery.-

For South Africa it was disaster despite some hard work by the team. As coach Arthur observed, "They attacked us upfront. They never let us settle. You're only as good as the opposition lets you be, and they were full value for the win."

In hindsight, South Africa paid dearly for the run out of Abraham de Villiers. "The run out cost us 25 runs. Anything around 280 would certainly have been a winning total," lamented Arthur. De Villiers was caught outside the crease by a direct hit from Lara. This narration would not be complete without the mention of Taposh Chatterjee, the hard working curator. He had laid out an ideal playing surface. "It was certainly the best (of the tournament). It was good for the entire game," said Lara.

The response from Chatterjee was modest, in keeping with his character. "There was pressure to prepare a good pitch and I am glad we had one befitting the occasion. It was nice to hear some praise from someone like Lara. I couldn't have asked for more."

The brilliant batting by Gayle was a tribute to the efforts of the ground staff and, of course, the cricket loving spectators of Jaipur.

The Scores

South Africa v West Indies, Semifinal, Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur, November 2, 2006. West Indies won by six wickets.

South Africa: G. Smith b Taylor 19; L. Bosman c Gayle b Samuels 39; J. Kallis c Sarwan b Bravo 16; H. Gibbs c Lara b Bravo 77; A. B. de Villiers (run out) 46; J. Kemp b Bradshaw 3; M. Boucher c Sarwan b Samuels 16; S. Pollock b Taylor 4; R. Peterson (not out) 15; A. Nel (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-6, w-15, nb-1) 23. Total (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 258.

Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-65, 3-96, 4-188, 5-195, 6- 219, 7-227, 8-256.

West Indies bowling: Bradshaw 10-0-58-1; Taylor 10-1-48-2; Bravo 7-0-41-2; Smith 4-1-12-0; Gayle 10-0-48-0; Samuels 9-0-44-2.

West Indies: C. Gayle (not out) 133; S. Chanderpaul (retired hurt) 57; R. Sarwan lbw b Ntini 27; D. Bravo (run out) 15; B. Lara c & b Smith 9; R. Morton c de Villiers b Peterson 0; M. Samuels (not out) 5; Extras (lb-7, w-6, nb-3) 16. Total (for four wickets, 44 overs) 262.

Fall of wickets: 0-154* (Chanderpaul, retired not out), 1-196, 2-226, 3-243, 4-244.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 5-0-34-0; Ntini 7-0-49-1; Nel 10-1-60-0; Smith 10-0-43-1; Kallis 5-0-33-0; Peterson 7-0-36-1.