Gayle’s ton in vain

Chris Gayle’s debut international Twenty20 century proved to be in vain as South Africa chased down the West Indies total of 205/6 with more than two overs to spare, with Herschelle Gibbs and Justin Kemp combing in an undefeated partnership worth 120. There were runs galore at the New Wanderers Stadium with both teams passing the 200 mark for the first time in international Twenty20 as no bowler was spared the treatment.

Gayle started in a rollicking way, slicing the first ball of the game to the boundary in a sign of things to come as he cleared the ropes ten times during his 117, including consecutive sixes off both Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock. Gayle’s 50 came at almost two runs a ball as he and Devon Smith put together 145 runs for the first wicket, a record partnership for any wicket in Twenty20 international cricket.

Smith was out shortly after as he attempted to play a square cut to Philander but instead found the outside edge of the bat, Boucher snaffling the easy catch. From there the West Indian innings lost most of its momentum as no other batsman scored more than a dozen runs and what was looking like a total of over 230 turned out to be just a touch over 200. Marlon Samuels launched a six before he was caught in the deep by AB de Villiers from the bowling of Shaun Pollock in what was an otherwise unenjoyable spell from the veteran fast bowler.

Dwayne Smith fell cheaply in a similar fashion, giving the fielders in the deep some catching practice. Shivnarine Chanderpaul top edged to Boucher and captain Ramnaresh Sarwan was caught at long-on as the wickets tumbled late in the innings, the West Indian batsman looking to build on Gayle’s innings but were unsuccessful in their attempts to power every ball over the ropes.

Three relatively inexperienced bowlers performed well for South Africa, with all-rounders Johan van der Wath and Vernon Philander both picking up two wickets apiece while Morne Morkel was the most economical, going at just seven and a half an over. Veteran Shaun Pollock was slaughtered to all parts of the ground during his spell, while an over each from Albie Morkel and Graeme Smith cost 32 runs in total.

The South African reply got off to a sluggish start with Graeme Smith getting struck on the arm from the first delivery of the innings which required medical attention. The skipper battled on and smashed some nice boundaries before Chris Gayle took a sharp catch at cover to dismiss him for 28. Herschelle Gibbs was just starting to flex his muscles at the other end, with productive running between the wickets after some early boundaries. In what was probably the most telling act of the game, Gibbs launched an inside-out drive over cover and found the normally safe hands of Dwayne Bravo, who bobbled the ball before dropping it. The batsman was on just 20 at the time and a boundary smote through midwicket over the next ball gave a glimpse of how costly the drop was.

AB de Villiers played a brief cameo, striking 16 from 9 balls as he benefited from Dwayne Smith’s wayward bowling, twenty runs being taken from his first over, seven of them in wides. Unfortunately de Villiers was unable to continue as Fidel Edwards found the edge and Dinesh Ramdin pouched the high catch. The score was 88/2 at the time and South Africa looked wobbly, in need of a steady hand so they could make a charge towards the West Indies big total.

In response, Gibbs batted sensibly and manipulated singles and striking powerful boundaries when the opportunity was present. A suspected leg injury forced Gibbs to ask for a runner but it did not stem the flow of runs, as Gibbs was once again dropped, this time by Chanderpaul at deep midwicket. He brought up his 50 from just 34 balls and looked to press on with the chase as Justin Kemp established himself at the crease, benefiting from dodgy catching as Marlon Samuels gave the big-hitter a reprieve when on 13.

Ravi Rampaul was the first to feel the brute force of Gibbs and Kemp as they lapped, carved and slogged their way to 21 runs from his final over and brought the equation down to almost run-a-ball stuff. Samuels second over suffered the same fate as first, two fours being struck from his off-spin bowling as Gibbs looked like a contender for scoring the second century of the match. A tight over from Fidel Edwards only delayed the inevitable and Gibbs took 14 runs from the 17th over to claim the victory, finishing unbeaten on 90 from 54 balls and batting partner Kemp on 46* from 22, both batsman narrowly missing out on milestones.

In the end it was a South African win, but it could prove to be a costly one as captain Graeme Smith had been taken to hospital for a suspected broken finger and Gibbs leg injury is of concern for team management, both players in doubt for the next game against Bangladesh. Chris Gayle will be feeling very bittersweet about his century but also tasting defeat, the West Indies catching effort letting them down as they dropped three sitters that proved costly.

West Indies 205/6
Chris Gayle 117, Devon Smith 35
Johan van der Wath 2/33, Vernon Philander 2/35

South Africa 208/2
Herschelle Gibbs 90*, Justin Kemp 46*
Fidel Edwards 1/21

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Chris Gayle

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