Chris Gayle storms to World Cup double-century
After calls for him to be dropped, Chris Gayle hit 16 sixes on his way to a score of 215
How must Dave Cameron be feeling now? Not the British prime minister but the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, who at the weekend became embroiled in a row over batsman Chris Gayle.
In retweeting a fan's tweet demanding that Gayle be dropped from the West Indies squad, Cameron was seen to be giving tacit support to the idea. He later apologised, but that small act of contrition will be nothing compared to the humiliation he must be experiencing today – after seeing Gayle become the first player in World Cup history to score a double century.
Prior to today's Pool B game against Zimbabwe in Canberra, Gayle had failed to reach 50 in his last nine international innings, averaging just 14.42.
The 35-year-old had looked desperately out of touch, hence the calls for him to be kicked out of the squad and into retirement. But as the old adage goes, 'form is temporary, class is permanent', and Gayle's response to his critics was to crack the most astonishing knock in the 40-year history of the World Cup.
Yet he was so nearly out to the very first ball he faced when he was hit on the pad by Zimbabwean paceman Tinashe Panyangara. The appeal was loud and long, but in vain, as the umpire ruled not out. TV replays showed that the ball would have just clipped the top of the bails but the original umpire's decision was allowed to stand.
Gayle was ruthless in the wake of his reprieve, reaching his 22nd one-day century in 105 balls before unleashing a savage assault on the Zimbabwean bowlers.
His second century came in 33 deliveries, just three fewer than when he raced to a ton in a record Twenty20 match in 2013.
When Gayle was finally out off the last ball of the West Indies innings for 215, he had hit 16 sixes in 147 balls, equalling the one-day international [ODI] record for sixes and shattering the previous World Cup record of nine.
It was the fifth double century in ODI cricket but the first by a non-Indian. Gayle's score also surpasses the 188 scored by South Africa's Gary Kirsten against the United Arab Emirates as the highest individual score in a World Cup match.
Gayle's extraordinary feat eclipsed the innings of teammate Marlon Samuels, who scored a century of his own in a stand of 372 – a record partnership for any ODI wicket – as the West Indies finished on a formidable 372-2 in their 50 overs. "It was a struggle at the start and I had a scare on the first ball," reflected Gayle. "I needed a break and I made best use of it… you have to take the bull by its horns and try to put some pressure on them. Eventually the field spread and I targeted which balls to attack."
Asked about the negatives comments he's had to face in recent weeks, Gayle replied: "There's been a lot of pressure, the runs haven't been coming, [and] for the first time in my career so many people wanted me to perform so badly. So I'm glad I gave them something to finally cheer about."
Faced with such a mammoth total Zimbabwe began shakily, losing their first wicket with the score on 11, and by the 10-over mark the Africans were 54-3 and badly in need of their own Gayle force storm.