... But Windies stutter to T20 win over SA
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CMC):Explosive opener Chris Gayle announced his return to international cricket after nearly five months with a stunning half-century, but West Indies made a meal of their target before stumbling past South Africa by four wickets in the opening Twenty20 International of the three-match series here yesterday.
The 35-year-old left-hander, who has been side-lined in recent months by injury, slammed the fastest T20 half-century by a West Indies batsman en route to a top score of 77 off 31, an innings which allowed the Caribbean side to chase down their target of 166, with only four deliveries remaining at Newlands.
Gayle belted five fours and eight whopping sixes, raising his 12th T20I half-century off a mere 17 balls to break Kieron Pollard's record of the fastest fifty by a West Indies player, which had come off 20 deliveries.
Foundation for victory
Marlon Samuels chipped in with 41 off 37 balls and Dwayne Smith made a run-a-ball 20 in an up tempo opening stand of 78 off 37 balls with Gayle, to lay the foundation for the Windies victory bid.
However, as has become the norm, the Caribbean side needed to inject the now obligatory drama into what otherwise should have been a straightforward run chase, especially after Gayle's fireworks paved the way.
Cruising at 147 for two in the 16th over, the Windies suddenly suffered an attack of nerves and lost four quick wickets for 17 runs in the space of 24 deliveries, to carry the game down to the last over.
Wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin then top-edged a hook at fast bowler David Wiese to fall to a catch at long leg, off the first ball, adding further worry to the West Indies camp. However, Pollard, who finished eight not out, smashed the next delivery to the mid-wicket ropes to end the contest.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was the best bowler on show with three for 28, while seamer Wayne Parnell took two for 39.
Earlier, Rilee Rossouw pounded an unbeaten 51 off 40 balls to steer South Africa to 165 for four off their 20 overs, after they opted to bat first.
Faf du Plessis brilliant
Captain Faf du Plessis was brilliant in getting 38 off 20 balls while shotgun David Miller was held to just 24 from 21 deliveries.
Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, who was handed the new ball, finished with two for 33 and bowled a great final over which cost just seven runs.
West Indies were three without loss after the first over, with Gayle scratching around for three balls over a single run, but it masked the pyrotechnics to follow.
Seemingly awakened by a bouncer from fast bowler Kagiso Rabada that whistled passed his helmet in the second over, Gayle then sensationally launched the final two deliveries of the over for straight sixes.
Smith raised the Windies fifty off 26 balls with the first of two boundaries in the over from Wiese and then watched as Gayle savaged Parnell in the bowler's first over - the sixth of the innings - which went for 23 runs.
Gayle brought up his half-century off the final ball of the over, carving Parnell to the cover point boundary.
Off the first ball of the next over - the first from Imran Tahir - Smith missed a reverse sweep and was lbw, but Gayle put on 36 for the second wicket with Samuels to keep West Indies on course for victory.
Samuels, hit five fours and a six, and Bravo added 33 off 26 balls for the third wicket, but once Bravo fell to a catch at mid-wicket off a leading edge off Parnell, the Windies wobbled before eventually steadying themselves to take the series lead.