“Injury-wise, still a bit if and buts, but I can manage it,” Chris Gayle had said on Thursday. He more than managed yesterday at the National Cricket Stadium; he manhandled, massacred, mowed down the St Lucia Zouks bowling.
The game was a simple one for him: put bat to ball and watch it fly. And Gayle made it fly everywhere in another innings for T20 folklore. The big man plundered his 12th century in T20 cricket-- 111 not out off a meagre 63 balls as the defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs made light of the St Lucia Zouks’ 161 for five, to win their opening match by seven wickets with an over to spare.
Getting the highest total of the opening weekend to that point was nowhere near enough in the end for the Zouks as Gayle launched his 10 sixes and five fours to all parts. “When he plays like that I like to be on the same side,” Zouks captain Darren Sammy said ruefully after the match. “The presence of Gayle was always going to take the game away from us.”
For all the frenzy he created in a bubbling crowd, it was more like business as usual for Gayle. “Being the opening batsman you want to bat all 20 overs so definitely that will always be in the back of your mind,” he said. “I just played normal as usual, gave myself a chance to get accustomed to the wicket and we lost Chadwick there and (with) still 2.3 overs left for powerplay...we tried to lift off and it paid off.”
“The most important thing,” he stressed, “was batting right down to the end. “You didn’t get a score and settle for it...Whoever gets themselves into this sort of position needs to carry the team over the line.”
The captain did that yesterday, ending the match in a flurry of boundaries. Gayle, bothered by back problems coming into this series and playing with painkillers, had transferred his pain to the Zouks bowlers. And the Stadium was more than happy for that. Yesterday, the biggest party in sports was in Grenada.