Chris Gayle has always been one of cricket’s greatest entertainers and if there was going to be one player at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to do something quite incredible it was always liable to be him. His innings against Zimbabwe was a joy for fans to watch and with 16 x 6’s he etched his name into the history books
The records didn’t just tumble at the Manuka Oval on February 24, they were smashed out of the park. The highest partnership in ODI history (372), putting Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (331) in the shade. The most balls a pair has batted together (298), again displacing the same duo. The highest score in a World Cup, eclipsing Gary Kirsten’s 188 not out against United Arab Emirates in 1996. The most number of sixes in an ODI innings (16), drawing level with AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma.
Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels came together with the scoreboard showing 0-1 after two balls. By the time Gayle was caught off a miscue on the final ball of the innings, he had galumphed his way to 215 off 147 balls. Samuels had eased to 133 from 156. The West Indies had 372 for 2, its highest ODI total.
Zimbabwe, who had batted with real verve in its matches thus far, gave further proof of its ability with a spirited run chase, but Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder led the way with three wickets, while Gayle chipped in with two as Zimbabwe’s pursuit of 363 in 48 overs – 20 minutes were lost to rain 2.3 overs into the innings – finished on 289, 73 runs behind (D/L method).
Gayle isn’t the kind of man to wear heart on sleeve, and there were few signs early on that he would be able to navigate a way out of a wretched run that had seen him cross 50 just once in 19 previous ODIs. He was distinctly fortunate to survive a leg-before shout from Tinashe Panyangara off the first ball he faced. It clipped both pads, and though Steve Davis gave it not out, Zimbabwe was confident enough to go for the review. But with only half the ball clipping the bails, it didn’t get the second wicket in the opening over, after Dwayne Smith had played all around one that darted back a touch.
Gayle’s first four was a chip over mid-on that ballooned tantalisingly over the fielder, and it was Samuels that looked more fluent early with two powerful shots down the ground. But on a sluggish pitch, Gayle eventually found his range, scorching a cover-drive off Tendai Chatara, before flicking him for four more. Williams came on to bowl spin and was greeted with a thump over long-on and a sweep for four.
Samuels, who had by then relegated himself to supporting act, should have gone when just 27, with the total on 73. But Chatara grassed a cut off Sikander Raza at backward point. The West Indies cooled off with drinks, and Gayle resumed by going on bended knee to biff Elton Chigumbura over extra cover for six.
He took 51 balls for his half-century, and then took Tafadzwa Kamungozi over deep midwicket and straight down the ground for sixes. When he got to 79, he became only the second West Indian after Brian Lara to reach 9000 ODI runs, an achievement he marked by lofting Raza over long-on for six.
The hundred, his first since making his 21st ODI ton against Sri Lanka in June 2013, took 105 balls, and after that there was no stopping him. He began the Power Play with a flicked six off Hamilton Masakadza and Panyangara, who had him caught off a no-ball and then the free hit that followed was treated with equal disdain. He ended the Power Play as he had begun it, with a six.
It took Gayle 21 balls to go from 100 to 150 and just a further 12 to become the first double-centurion at a World Cup. It made him the first non-Indian – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rohit (twice) had already pulled off the feat – to reach that landmark in ODIs. It was also the fastest double (138 balls), besting Sehwag’s effort by two deliveries. Samuels, who had labored 95 balls for his half-century, took just another 48 for his hundred, and iced the cake with a flurry of hits to and over the rope.