Under intense pressure after failing to score a one-day international century since June 2013, Gayle had a reprieve when he survived an lbw appeal on the first ball he faced from Tinashe Panyangara. “When I looked at the replay I was like: `Oh, you’re kidding me … Come on idiot, not again,”’ Gayle said. Zimbabwe reviewed the umpire’s not-out decision, but the batsman got the benefit of the doubt. After a moment of relief, Gayle told himself: “‘Listen I’ve got to take the bull by its horns.’ Then everything started.”
The 35-year-old Jamaican surpassed Gary Kirsten’s 188 against United Arab Emirates in 1996 as the highest score in the World Cup before he was caught on the last ball of the innings. He and Samuels (133 not out) lifted West Indies from 0-1 to 372-2, which was far beyond the Zimbabwe’s reach. Gayle then took two wickets and a catch as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 289 chasing a revised target of 263 under the Duckworth-Lewis method after two overs were lost to rain. Sean Williams scored 76 and Craig Ervine hit 52 for Zimbabwe, while opening bowlers Jerome Taylor (3-38) and Jason Holder (3-48) took three wickets each for the West Indies.
“It was a fantastic day for me from a personal point of view and from a team it was good overall result,” Gayle said. “It means a lot. It’s been a while since I made runs. “I hope this is the start of a new beginning.”
Gayle’s 147-ball knock also contained 10 boundaries and was the fastest double-hundred – and only the fifth overall – in an ODI. His partnership with Samuels also was a record for any wicket in the 50-over format. Gayle’s 16 sixes equaled the record for most in an ODI innings, level with South Africa skipper AB de Villiers’ mark against the West Indies in Johannesburg last month and Rohit Sharma’s tally against Australia in 2013. And the score was the third highest, behind Rohit Sharma’s 264 and Virender Sehwag’s 219, in ODIs.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said the result could have been very different if Gayle had been dismissed without scoring on the fourth ball of the match, two balls after opener Dwayne Smith had been bowled for a duck.
“It think on another day, (Gayle) could have been given out, but you can’t do anything about that. “Gayle played a big part. Who knows if he had gone out?” Gayle was on the attack for most of the innings, but cautious when he got close to his 22nd ODI hundred, moving through the 90s mostly in singles. After clearing that hurdle, he smashed a six to move to 107 from 108 balls.
Zimbabwe were never in the game and were soon at the receiving end of their second loss in as many games.
The Zimbabwe bowlers had no answers to his onslaught, and had setbacks when Gayle was caught from a no-ball at long-on while on 121 and caught again in the deep off the subsequent free hit in an eventful start to the 40th over.
It wasn’t until the last ball of the innings that he was skied a catch off Hamilton Masakadza (1-39), who was brought in to bowl the last two deliveries after two consecutive above-the-waist no balls from Tendai Chatara.
Gayle said he needed the lucky break he got from his early reprieve when he was hit on the pads, in front, to a ball that may have gone over the stumps. Umpire Steve Davis gave him not out, but Zimbabwe reviewed the decision and replays showed it was a very, very close call. “There’s been a lot of pressure. The runs haven’t been coming,”
Gayle said. “In the end I am sure I gave (the fans and critics) something to talk about.” Samuels played an anchor role, hitting 11 boundaries and three sixes after going to the crease when Panyangara bowled Dwayne Smith without a run on the board with the second ball of the day. He did have a let off in the 17th over, when he was dropped on 27.
The West Indies were heavily criticized after a surprising four-wicket loss to Ireland in their opening match, but rebounded well to thrash 1992 champion Pakistan by 150 runs on the weekend and have moved to second spot in Pool B with back-to-back victories ahead of a Friday match against South Africa.