Kingston, Jamaica – Opener Chris Gayle says he is looking forward to performing yet again at Sabina Park, when the West Indies and New Zealand meet in the final match of their two- match Digicel Test series in two days time.
The powerful left-hander, who has been in top form since his return to international cricket in June, made an unbeaten 63 and 125 the last time he batted at Sabina Park, in the opening two games of the preceding Digicel ODI series earlier this month.
His innings helped to lay the foundation for victories in both games, which set the tone for a 4-1 series triumph.
“I hope I can continue here in front of my home crowd by trying to get at least another century,” said Gayle.
“The last time I was here, the aim was to get a start and stick in, and fortunately for me I was able to do that and entertain the crowd. This is what I love to do and will continue to do, as long as I am fit and healthy and can contribute to the team winning matches and series,” Gayle said.
The 32-year-old, who made 165 in the last innings prior to the one-dayers – during the first round of this year’s regional four-day tournament – made 150 and 64 not-out in the first Test in Antigua against New Zealand.
He was, however, not the only West Indies batsman to get to triple figures, as 22-year-old Kieran Powell, playing in his 10th Test, made 134 in the first innings. This was during an opening stand of 254 runs, which he shared with Gayle.
“It was good to see young Powell getting his first Test century, as though inexperienced, he played within his limitations and made good use of his opportunities,” said
Gayle. “This is the type of partner that you want when you go
out to bat, someone who can hold their own, and the hope is that going forward, he can grow from strength to strength.”
Gayle, in the meantime, could have added motivation to perform this weekend as, with the country celebrating its 50th year of Independence, the Jamaica Cricket Association will be embarking on a number of activities to mark the occasion. This includes a wear-your-national-colours ‘Jamaica Day’ on August 4, which will include a lap of honour involving men and women who have represented the country in cricket since 1962. Meanwhile, captain Darren Sammy stressed that only half of his team’s job was complete. “Half the job is done. We won the first Test and we have one more here in Jamaica and we are looking forward to it. It’s good to win games, but we can’t get complacent. We still got to go out and do the same things again, or do even better,” he said.
Sammy noted that Gayle’s return had brought solidity to the top order, adding that the other players played vital roles. “We have Chris back, giving us that type of experience at the top. Powell had that (century) innings that was really good. We have (Sunil) Narine as a match-winner and we also have Kemar (Roach), so I think we have a good mix in the team. In that Test match we did what we had to do. The batsmen got a good first-innings score and the bowlers backed it up,” Sammy said.
West Indies were forced to make one change to the side that won in Antigua, bringing in fast bowler Fidel Edwards for the injured Ravi Rampaul. But with Tino Best already in the squad, it is anticipated that Best will get the nod over his compatriot.
Squad: Darren Sammy (captain); Denesh Ramdin (vice captain); Adrian Barath; Tino Best; Shivnarine Chanderpaul; Narsingh Deonarine; Fidel Edwards; Assad Fudadin; Chris Gayle; Sunil Narine; Kieran Powell; Kemar Roach; Marlon Samuels