It took Chris Gayle a while to get going – these days, it usually does. But the risk-free manner in which he constructed his innings revealed just how well he’s mastered the format and with him in the middle for the whole 20 overs, the Australians never had a chance.
West Indies hammered the Australian bowlers to all parts of the ground as they put on 205-4 after electing to bat first. In reply, the Aussies could muster just 131 all out, giving the the men from the Caribbean a 74-run victory and a place in the final against Sri Lanka.
Early on, Gayle even left a few balls alone. In fact, by the time the West Indies innings had reached the 10-over mark, the left-hander had made just 25 off 17 balls with 3 sixes, no fours and 8 dot balls. That’s just 17 balls out of 60 and just 25 runs out of 74.
The languid manner in which he strolled across for a single painted the picture of a man completely in charge. He didn’t push it but honestly, he didn’t need to. Usually, the West Indies side is a one-man party and that’s what they’ve been called through the tournament. But today, each one of Gayle’s mates chipped in.
Johnson Charles was gone early after making 10 but Marlon Samuels (26 off 20) and Dwayne Bravo (37 off 31) played sensibly to keep the scoreboard ticking around at a fair pace. Kieron Pollard came in and provided the finishing touch with a 15-ball 38 including 3 sixes and 3 fours.
The West Indies were going at a steady rate – they brought up their 100 in 12.5 overs. But by T20 standards that isn’t mind-numbing and this with Gayle batting in the middle.
In fact, when the Gayle-Bravo for the third wicket partnership reached 53, Bravo was outscoring Gayle 27 to 17. But by the time it ended with Bravo’s dismissal, Gayle had caught up.
That he allowed the others to play around him shows just how shrewd a batsman he is. There’s more to his game than just hitting the big shots. He’s often spoken about getting the bowlers to bowl to him but today by just staying in the middle, he trumped Australia in the mind games department as well. He knew the runs would come – no one could deny him that. There was no malevolent intent in his innings – not a shot was hit in anger and not a false step was taken either.
And he still ended up making 75 off 41 balls with 5 fours and 6 sixes. It was the least amount of balls faced by somebody carrying their bat for 20 overs in a T20I. The record before this was 52. He also hit his 50th six in international cricket in 2012 (in just 18 innings). This was the template for the perfect T20 innings, played by the best T20 batsmen the world has ever seen.
While Gayle has hit the most sixes this year, the next best is Shane Watson with 36. And if Australia wanted to get anywhere close to the West Indies total, they needed him to fire. But that just didn’t happen.
Australia’s scorecard made for some sorry reading: David Warner 1, Watson 7, Michael Hussey 18, Cameron White 5, David Hussey 0, Matthew Wade 1 and all of these wickets fell before the end of the eighth over. The skipper, George Bailey, wasn’t about to give up though.
He waged a lone battle – smashing 63 off 29 balls with 6 fours and 4 sixes and helped his side get to at least 100. But the war had long been lost. West Indies emerged easy victors and will take on Sri Lanka and 35,000 screaming fans in the final on Sunday.