West Indies batting superstar faced only 41 deliveries in the innings, but smashed a Man of the Match-winning 75 runs with five fours and six sixes
He faced only 41 balls through the innings, but the damage that Chris Gayle did off them effectively shut Australia out of the game halfway through the second semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 2012. He finished unbeaten on 75, and significant partnerships with Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard took West Indies to the highest total in the competition, 205-4.
“It was actually a slow track,” said Gayle afterwards. “The key was to be there till the end. The other guys had to play around me. It was a slow start and I didn’t get much strike in the first six overs. What was important was that we didn’t panic and lose focus.
“Marlon Samuels came in and hit a few boundaries to take the pressure off me. The partnership with Bravo helped a lot and Pollard at the end helped take the total to 200. When you can play with a bit of power, you can pick up key runs at the end. It was a really good batting display.”
Even Gayle admitted that the final total exceeded expectations. “Watching the games here, it was a slow track. We knew spin would play a part. But we capitalised on the bad balls and put their spinner under a bit of pressure. We were looking at 150 to 160. To get 40 runs extra was a bonus,” said Gayle.
Apart from Gayle, the other welcome news for West Indies was the return to form of Pollard, who smashed 38 off just 15 balls after a slow start to the competition. “When he came in, they were showing his Champions League innings for Trinidad against New South Wales,” said Gayle. “I said to him, ‘For today, I need the old Pollard back’. And he did play that part. There’s one more hurdle to cross and hopefully he can give us that boost again and take us to the trophy.”
According to him, Twenty20 didn’t necessarily mean going crash-bang-wallop from the first ball. “You can build an innings in T20, but your partners have to help you,” said Gayle. “You don’t want too many dot balls out there. But if you know that you can capitalise on the last couple of overs with your power, you can build an innings.
“The more I was off strike, the better it was for them [Australia]. They would have loved to get me out as early as possible. They started really well with (Mitchell) Starc. (Shane) Watson was the pick of the bowlers. We lost an early wicket and then built a partnership.”
Australia didn’t bowl that badly, but almost every single error in line or length was ruthlessly punished. “They kind of put a couple of deliveries in my slot,” said Gayle. “In this format, if you don’t get your yorkers right, it’s going to be tough. Bowling against power hitters, you’ll pay the penalty. They bowled well at us but when you have a bit of extra power, anything can happen out there.”
Australia’s chase was doomed once its heavy hitters, David Warner and Shane Watson, fell early. “They have world-class players at the top of the order who have done it before,” said Gayle. “To get them out early was a plus for us. (Michael) Hussey has won a lot of games for Australia. Picking up early wickets exposed the middle order a bit. I’m not saying there aren’t quality players in the middle, but they haven’t had a lot of hits. It was always going to be difficult for them to chase down 200 on that sort of wicket.”
After the way he took to Xavier Doherty, Gayle was asked how he’d approach batting against Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner who was one of the stars of Sri Lanka’s semi-final win. “He [Herath] has been bowling good,” said Gayle. “He’s definitely got a lot of variations. It’s what you do on a particular day, whether you go after him or not. You just have to work according to the situation out there. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Told that Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, had tweeted appreciatively, Gayle just grinned. “We’re going to rock against Sri Lanka,” said Gayle. “We played against them in the Super Eights and we know what to expect – the atmosphere, the noise. We lost that game, but we’re definitely going to lift this trophy here. The others feel confident too.
“It’s going to be a thriller against world-class players but it’s going to be good fun. We’re enjoying it, but at the same time we want to win the final. We struggled to reach this far. Some in the media might have had us as favourites but we did struggle. Now there’s just one more hurdle and there’s no pressure on us.”
Given the way he has celebrated during the tournament, there was the obligatory question about Gangnam Style. “I saw the video a couple of months ago,” said Gayle. “When it came out, there was a lot of talk about it. That’s how I got into it. It depends on what sort of mood I’m in. It’s a good dance to be honest. I enjoy it. Everybody does.”
The Sri Lankan team and millions of its fans will hope that there’s no jubilant Gangnam Style on Sunday night.