By Sean Devers
A swashbuckling 48-ball 101 from Chris Gayle thrilled a large crowd on hand and millions more around the world, following the merciless onslaught live on NCN Radio on Saturday night from the Providence Stadium.
When night falls the stars come out to shine and none shone brighter than Gayle, known as the ‘World Boss’ in T20 circles, as fans who attended the Legacy & 007 Promotions Unity Cricket, left the ground spellbound by the cultured brutality of the big Jamaican in full cry.
Gayle, back in the West Indies team for t20 World Cup in March, powered the 007 Warriors to an emphatic seven-wicket victory over the Legacy All Stars as the ‘Gayle Storm’ decimated the hapless opposition bowlers.
Gayle’s first three-figure score in any format in Guyana and the only t20 hundred at the Stadium took the 007 Warriors to 180-2 from 16.5 overs in reply to the respectable 177-8 in 20 overs made by the Legacy All Stars.
Gayle’s innings alone was worth the $3,000 paid to get into the venue and those who missed it missed a magnificently brutal innings which included 11 sixes and four fours. The left-hander took 34 balls to post his fifty after he added 50 for the first wicket with Grenadian Andre Fletcher. Fletcher stroked two fours and a six in a busy 18 before he was removed by leg-spinner Samuel Badree in the fifth over.
But the 36-year-old Gayle, who has 16 T20 hundreds including the first ever t20 International century against host South Africa in the 2007 t20 World Cup, dominated a 100-run second wicket partnership with Skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan, content to play the supporting role on a slow track and fast outfield.
Gayle, one of only four batsmen with two triple hundreds in Test cricket, showed why he is the world’s best t20 batsman and why as Sarwan said, the Big Bash will miss Gayle more than Gayle will miss the Big Bash.
A Sammy full toss was clobbered for six, while the next ball sailed over the cover boundary. With Gayle at the crease the fans had plenty of opportunities to take one-handed catches and win us$500.
Gudakesh Motie has 34 wickets from the first half of the PCL first-class tournament but the left-arm spinner was now playing with the ‘big boys’ before the largest crowd of his career.
His task was to keep Gayle quiet or better yet dismiss him but he could do neither of the two. Gayle pounced on Motie like a cat upon a mouse and deposited him for two consecutive sixes and a four in his second over which cost 25 runs. But at 20, this was a learning experience for the Berbician which could only make him a better player.
Gayle raced to his second fifty with the speed of fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt from just 13 balls in a truly memorable display of clean power-hitting which included five sixes off the first five balls in the 14th over bowled by Badree to take him to his century in sensational fashion.
Despite a few behind-the-scenes issues and the late selling of tickets, which contributed to the less than capacity full ground which accommodates 15,000, the atmosphere was simply fantastic.
Guyanese of all races, class and creed dancing together, pulsating rhythms from the Party stand, Tassa drumming, costumed characters just beyond the boundary ropes and cheerleads in full flow created a Mashramani-like atmosphere.
The concept of Unity Cricket is to unite Guyanese of all races and religions through sports and to contribute to Guyana’s 50th Anniversary year of Events.
Even before Gayle strolled to the crease with a swagger and nonchalantly clipped West Indies Test and ODI Captain Jason Holder for four to get his innings going, the spectators were demonstrating a perfect example of that concept.
After Fletcher’s demise, Sarwan back in a ‘big game’ for the first time in over two years, was the silent partner in the century stand but showed glimpses of why he was once rated as the world’s number one ‘finisher’ in ODIs.
The 35-year-old, who led Guyana to the Inaugural t20 title in 2006 in Antigua and averages over 40 in both Test and ODIs, majestically stroked Holder to the cover boundary and pulled him effortlessly for four before lofting Dwayne Smith to long-off for 25 at 150-3.
Gayle retired with the score on 153 to allow Dwayne Bravo to get a ‘knock’ and Bravo (22) nd Nicholas Pooran (6) saw their team home.
Earlier, Gajanand Singh (4-25) was the unlikely hero with the ball and got support from Bravo (2-23) and Romario Shepherd (2-36). Suleiman Benn went wicketless from his four overs.
Led by West Indies t20 Skipper Darren Sammy; replacing the injured Chris Barnwell as Captain, Legacy All Stars slipped to 14-2.
Smith (7) was bowled by a beauty from Shepherd which left him and Shemroy Barrington wasted an opportunity to impress on the ‘big stage’ pulling Bravo high to short square leg before he had scored.
Lendl Simmons and Guyanese left-hander Robin Bacchus added 88 for the third wicket before Simmons, who hit five fours and two sixes in an entertaining 52 from 40 balls was taken in the deep off Singh at 102-3 in the 12th over.
Bacchus played some delightful shots and had five fours in his 22-ball 32 before he was removed by the impressive Shepherd at 102-4. Wickets fell at regular intervals before an unbeaten 24 from 12 balls by Veerasammy Permaul took the Legacy All Stars past the 150 mark.
After that the Chris Gayle show began and once he got going the result was just a formality.
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