Gayle’s class act

The West Indies skipper perhaps had been waiting for this tournament ever since he arrived in England. He skipped all but one of his team’s four warm-up games, opting to keep his powder dry for the tournament proper. And the results were predictably explosive. By Andy Bull.

Who is going to criticise or lampoon Chris Gayle’s approach to cricket now? Not Australia, humbled as they were by his bat, and certainly not Brett Lee, humiliated as he was by the West Indian captain. And least of all the 18,731 folk at the Oval who watched his annihilation of the vaunted Australian attack.

Australia lost by seven wickets, and the West Indies still had 25 balls to spare. This was every bit as stinging a defeat as England’s loss to Holland. At least Paul Collingwood’s men made a contest of it, Australia were simply eviscerated.

Gayle, you guess, has been waiting for this tournament ever since he arrived in England, and especially so since the self-righteous reaction from the press and former players to his remarks ahead of the second Test. He skipped all but one of his team’s four warm-up games, opting to keep his powder dry for the tournament proper. The results were predictably explosive. It was an innings laced with contempt, anger and indignation.

Lee’s three-over long opening spell cost his side an astonishing 51 runs, 43 of them hit by Gayle. No less than 27 of those came from a single over, which included three gargantuan sixes, one of them hit up onto the roof of the Bedser stand, and two fours.

Lee eventually returned and had Gayle caught at mid-wicket for 88 from just 50 balls. By then the West Indies needed just 12 runs from 31 balls, Gayle having made a nonsense of the seemingly stiff target of 170.

Gayle’s opening partner Andre Fletcher was scarcely less destructive, and the two put on 133 from just 76 deliveries before being parted. Fletcher tucked into Mitchell Johnson with just as much gusto as Gayle did Lee, taking 19 from his first two overs. He was badly dropped by Mike Hussey on just 21.

Ponting’s lack of faith in Nathan Hauritz, who was left out of the XI, was certainly a tactical error given the paucity of spin options it left him with, but in truth Hauritz could hardly have made much difference if he had played. It was not just Lee who suffered, Ponting shared the pain out evenly between his bowlers. David Hussey’s first over of off-breaks was dispatched for 15 runs by Gayle.

That Australia mustered as many as 169 at all was a surprise after their woeful start. Jerome Taylor’s preposterous first over included three wides, one of them a head-high beamer, and two stunning wickets. Shane Watson drove the third ball straight to mid-off, and Ricky Ponting was out leg-before, beaten by Taylor’s sheer pace as he shuffled across his stumps. At the other end Fidel Edwards was even fierier, and he had Michael Clarke caught at third man off the outside edge in his second over. Australia then were in tatters at 15-3.

David Warner, playing with far more orthodoxy than his reputation belied, rallied the innings with Brad Haddin. Warner’s 63 came off just 53 balls and featured one glorious pull for six as a riposte to Edwards immediately after Clarke’s dismissal. Brad Haddin and the Hussey brothers all contributed quick cameos to push the total upwards, but they would have had to have made a whole lot more to deny Gayle given the mood he was in.

THE SCORES

Australia 169 for 7 in 20 overs (D. A. Warner 63, D. J. Hussey 27, M. E. K. Hussey 28, J. E. Taylor 2 for 33, F. H. Edwards 2 for 34, D. J. Bravo 2 for 31) lost to West Indies 172 for 3 in 15.5 overs (C. H. Gayle 88, A. D. S. Fletcher 53, M. G. Johnson 2 for 36).

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009