Gayle injured, out of S Africa Tests
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC):
Injury has forced veteran opener Chris Gayle out of the Test series against South Africa starting later this month.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced in a release yesterday that Gayle, currently playing in the South African Ram Slam Twenty20 League, would be unavailable for the three-match rubber because of injury.
He will be replaced by in-form Windward Islands opener Devon Smith, who played the last of his 33 Tests three years ago.
The 33-year-old Smith stroked his 24th first-class hundred over the weekend when he hit 145 against Leeward Islands in the third round of the WICB Professional Cricket League in his hometown of St George's.
Smith has made one century and five half-centuries and averages just under 25 in Tests. However, he has been in superb form already this season, already amassing 334 runs at an average of 55. He will fly out this week to join the West Indies squad, which left the Caribbean on Sunday and assembled in London, before leaving at 9 last night for Johannesburg.
Gayle has struggled with injury in recent years and missed the recent ill-fated one-day tour of India as a result. The left-hander is the region's most successful contemporary opener, with over 7,000 runs in 103 Tests at an average of 42.
Smith, meanwhile, will be joined by left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, who leaves the region on Friday for South Africa.
Cottrell was asked to stay behind by selectors and contest the third round of matches, in order to prove his match fitness. He subsequently blew away Trinidad and Tobago Red Force for 131 in their first innings with a spell of five for 42 at Queen's Park Oval last weekend.
West Indies open their tour with a three-day practice game in Benoni starting December 10th.