Explosive West Indies opener Chris Gayle underscored his value to any Twenty20 lineup when he smashed 85 off 44 balls to lead Jamaica to an emphatic seven-wicket win over the Combined Campuses and Colleges in their final Caribbean T20 round robin match at Beausejour Stadium, St Lucia yesterday.
The left-handed Gayle, coming into the Jamaican squad as a replacement for the injured middle-order batsman Andre McCarthy, smashed the bowlers around as Jamaica made light work of CCC's 150 for five.
Jamaica, who were last year's runners up, raced to 151 for three off 16.4 overs to ensure their place in today's playoff to determine who will face defending champions Trinidad and Tobago in tomorrow's final.
Jamaica finished the round robin phase of the competition in second place with 17 points with four wins, one loss and one no-result against T&T.
The other playoff spot was decided in yesterday's 8 p.m. match at the same venue between hosts Windward Islands and 2010 champions Guyana who were both tied on 12 points heading into the decider.
Gayle's blitz started with a six over the long-on boundary off left-arm spinner Derone Davis in the second over of the chase. The opener then shifted into overdrive.
He smashed three fours and two sixes off Davis' second over which cost 25 runs.
The Jamaican score had moved from 15 off three overs to 40 off four and the momentum stayed with the men in bright yellow as Gayle brought some much needed stability to the team's lineup ahead of the playoff tonight.
Balls kept disappearing over the ropes with Gayle smacking 20 runs off leg-spinner Akeem Dewar in the 10th over with three more sixes.
And just before he departed, he launched into Ryan Austin, hitting the off-spinner over midwicket and then long-on before lofting one to Jason Holder at long-on to bring his entertaining innings to a close.
At the other end, Dave Bernard had compiled 24 off 21 but his innings was overshadowed by Gayle's emphatic return.
By the time Gayle walked back to the pavilion, Jamaica were well in control of the chase needing just 13 runs to win.
Nkrumah Bonner's 28 off 29 balls and skipper Tamar Lambert's three off four eventually brought home the win with 20 balls to spare.
By the end of it, Gayle was second on the list of batsmen with most sixes, one more than T&T's Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons who have eight each, and four behind tournament-leading scorer T&T's Darren Bravo who has 13 sixes.
When CCC batted, they too took advantage of the good conditions to post a competitive score.
Skipper Kyle Corbin led from the front, smashing five sixes in his 32-ball 47 as they kept their scoring rate up throughout their innings.
He and Raymon Reifer (37 off 31 balls) took CCC to 90 for one in the 12th over with a 59-run partnership for the second wicket before Reifer tried to play one too many shots.
He smashed spinner Nikita Miller for a six over extra cover off the first ball in the 12th over before finding Andre Russell on the deep midwicket boundary. But the top order had already given them the impetus for what they thought would have been a good score.
Today's CT20 fixture
At Beausejour Cricket Ground
Playoff: Jamaica vs winners of Windwards vs Guyana, 8 p.m.