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Gayle, Samuels put africans to the sword

CANBERRA –– West Indies opener Chris Gayle hit the highest score at a World Cup and the fastest ever One-Day International double century to hand his side a comfortable 73-run win over Zimbabwe at the Manuka Oval today.

The Windies posted 372 for 2 in front of 5,544 spectators to record the highest one-day international score on Australian soil. Zimbabwe chased gallantly to post 289 all out in reply – a brief rain delay revising the target down to 363 from 48 overs.

Having narrowly dodged a contentious lbw decision on his first ball, Gayle steadied under light rain to make a drought-breaking 215 runs off 147 balls.

“There’s been a lot of pressure. The runs haven’t been coming,” Gayle said.

“So many people wanted me to score runs and I’m really glad I gave them something to cheer about.”

It was also Gayle’s (2-35) day with the ball, dismissing dangerman Craig Ervine (50) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (18) in his first two overs to expose the Zimbabwe tail.

But it was his crowd-pleasing slogs that stole the show, becoming the first non-Indian player to reach 200 in a one-day international, and the first to do so in a World Cup match.

It’s also the third highest ODI score ever, shy of Indian Rohit Sharma’s 264 and Virender Sehwag’s 219.

Marlon Samuels’ career-best 133 not out, understandably, became a footnote amidst Gayle’s stunning innings (ten fours and 16 sixes) but he played an important part in the highest partnership (372) in ODI history.

Marlon Samuels made his highest ODI score.

Marlon Samuels made his highest ODI score.

As with most of Gayle’s best knocks, the pacing of the innings was splendid. He got his fifty off 51 balls, his hundred off 105 balls but then exploded to score his next hundred off just 33 balls. However, it was a far cry from how his and West Indies’ innings started.

Chris Gayle celebrates on reaching his double century.

Chris Gayle celebrates on reaching his double century.

After opting to bat first, West Indies’ opener Dwayne Smith was castled off just the second ball of the match by Tinashe Panyangara. Gayle could have been dismissed for a golden duck, but Umpire Steve Davis turned down a close LBW call. What looked plumb to the naked eye was refuted by DRS, which supported the umpire, and Gayle survived, and later thrived in Samuels’ company.

“I thought: ‘Come on, you’re not serious. I can’t be out first ball. No. I need a chance’,” Gayle said of the agonising DRS wait. “And I got a break and made the most of it.”

With rain clouds hovering over the Manuka Oval, West Indies made sedate but steady progress. Gayle was brisk but Samuels was a lot more watchful and got his fifty off 95 balls – the slowest in World Cup 2015. However Samuels’ go-slow approach did not hurt West Indies too much and was neutered by Gayle’s belligerence. It took Gayle 21 balls to move from 90 to 100 but the batting powerplay was in the offing and Gayle cut loose at the right time.

Fifty-five runs came in the batting powerplay between overs 35 and 40. Gayle scored 35 of them. That was the beginning of the carnage. The next fifteen overs yielded 207 runs as Zimbabwe’s bowlers withered and crumbled against Gayle’s onslaught.

After staying with Gayle for the longest stand in ODI history, the big hitting methods rubbed off on Samuels as well towards the latter stages of the innings. He had started scratchily and survived a dropped catch on 27 but eventually found his groove and gave the finishing touches to the innings.

Gayle’s whirlwind knock came just days after West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron controversially retweeted a fan’s criticism that called for him to be given a “retirement package”. Up to that point, Gayle had averaged just 14.42 with the bat since his last century 20 innings ago. West Indies legendary batsman Brian Lara lightheartedly suggested on Fox Sports that Gayle had received a “wake up call”.

“I would encourage the president to [retweet] another one,” Lara joked.

Gayle’s celebrations after getting to the double hundred were muted as he knelt down on the pitch with arms raised but was vociferously cheered on by his team-mates.

The knock was a also a stark reminder for critics and doubters. Chris Gayle has arrived and so has West Indies in the World Cup. After a shock defeat to Ireland in their World Cup opener, they thrashed Pakistan in the previous game but the sheer dominance in this innings has shown that West Indies cannot be taken lightly by anyone in this World Cup.

The thumping at the hands of Gayle and Samuels left Zimbabwe flustered and it was compounded by the loss of two early wickets either side of a short rain-break. Zimbabwe’s target was revised to 363 in 48 overs due to the break. The middle order trio of Brendan Taylor (37), Sean Williams (76) and Craig Ervine (52) kept Zimbabwe on par with the asking rate for a large part of the innings. However, Elton Chigumbura’s men were done in by the loss of wickets at regular intervals coupled with unrelenting scoreboard pressure. Pacer Jerome Taylor finished with 3 for 38.

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