West Indies went 2-0 up in the three-match Twenty/20 International series against South Africa yesterday at the Wanderers Ground, with a record breaking batting performance, achieving the highest run chase in the relatively short history of the 20 overs-a-side version of the game.
Set 232 to win, the West Indians blazing their way to 236/6, stunning the South African players and their expectant fans in one of the most amazing batting displays ever seen in this format of international cricket.
The South Africans, batting first, could have been forgiven for thinking they were on course to winning the match and squaring the series, after blasting 231 off their allotted 20 overs, highlighted by a majestic 119 off 56 balls by their captain, Faf du Plessis.
They would have been mindful, however, that as long as they did not remove Christopher Henry Gayle, the giant West Indies opening batsman, early, there was hardly any total too huge for the men from the Caribbean to chase down.
And so it was, that Gayle, kept relatively quiet for the first two overs, while Dwayne Smith took the bulk of the bowling, used the third over, bowled by Kyle Abbott, to impose himself on the game, with 22 runs, hitting four consecutive boundaries off the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th deliveries, before blasting a 6 off the final ball of the over.
That destructive over had taken the West Indies to 44/1 off only three overs (having lost Smith in the 2nd over), and there was no looking back as the two Jamaicans, Gayle and Marlon Samuels, took total control of the proceedings. By the time their 152 run partnership was broken at 171/2, with the fall of Gayle’s wicket in the 14th over, it must have been pretty clear to the South Africans that the match had been wrested from their grasp.
Gayle’s 90 runs had come off just 41 balls, with nine 4s and seven 6s. More importantly, by the time he walked off the field, his team was only 60 runs short of the South Africans’ total of 231, with 38 deliveries still available.
There was a bit of a stutter to the innings thereafter, as Samuels went for 60 (off 38 balls) in the 16 over. The big hitting Kieron Pollard went in the same over, followed by Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo in the 17th and the 18th over respectively.
But even though the dismissals kept coming in quick succession, each of the dismissed batsmen had taken a bite out of the target, scoring at such a phenomenal rate that the 232 remained a manageable prospect.
In the end, the target was achieved off the second ball of the 20th over, captain Darren Sammy hitting a huge six over square leg to set off another round of wild celebrations by the men in maroon.
Such was the impact of Gayle on the outcome that, despite du Plessi’s splendid century, the West Indian opener was named Man-of-the-Match, just as he was in the previous game.