History-making Gayle, Samuels batter Zimbabwe
CANBERRA, Australia (CMC):
Chris Gayle smashed the first double century in a World Cup and the fastest ever in one-dayers, as West Indies pivoted on a record-breaking batting effort to beat Zimbabwe by 73 runs and post their second straight win of the global showpiece yesterday.
Opting to bat first at Manuka Oval, West Indies powered their way to 372 for two off 50 overs - their highest ever ODI total - with the left-handed Gayle fashioning an extraordinary career-best 215 off 147 deliveries.
Vice-captain Marlon Samuels joined Gayle in the run fiesta, carving out an unbeaten 133, to help the Windies to the fifth highest total in World Cup history.
The pair blossomed from an uncertain start to unleash a furious assault on the Zimbabwe attack in a phenomenal second wicket stand of 372 - an all-time record for any wicket in one-day internationals.
The stand shattered the 331 set by Indian legends Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar against New Zealand, 16 years ago in Hyderabad.
Fast bowlers Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder then snatched three wickets apiece as Zimbabwe put up a spirited response before they were bowled out for 289 off 44.3 overs.
Taylor finished with three for 38, and captain Holder three for 48, thwarting the African nation's pursuit of a revised target of 363 from 48 overs following a rain stoppage early in the innings.
Gayle, predictably voted Man of the Match, weighed in with two for 35 with his off-spin.
Sean Williams led Zimbabwe's charge, top-scoring with 76 off 61 balls, while Craig Ervine struck an equally gallant 52 off 41 deliveries.
Brendan Taylor chimed in with 37 and Sikandar Raza got 26, but once Zimbabwe began to lose wickets, the run chase became derailed.
The victory lifted West Indies to four points in Group B, only second to reigning champions India on net run rate, while Zimbabwe slumped to fifth following their second loss in three outings.
dose of reality
Heading into yesterday's contest still pumped up from their 150-run thumping of Pakistan in Christchurch, West Indies were handed a dose of reality when they lost Dwayne Smith to the second ball of the innings without a run on the board, bowled by seamer Tinashe Panyangara by one that nipped back and kept a trifle low.
Samuels nearly played on to the next ball, inside edging past his stumps to get a single to fine leg.
The turning point of the game came off the very next delivery, when Gayle narrowly survived a very close lbw review.
He missed one from Panyangara, which pitched in line and hit him below the knee roll as he prodded forward hesitantly, but was given not out. Reviews showed the ball barely clipping the top of the bails and the decision stood.
Capitalising on his good fortune, the 35-year-old showman then took centre stage.
Overall, he counted 10 fours and an incredible 16 sixes en route to a double century off a mere 138 deliveries, becoming only the fourth batsman to score an ODI double and the first non-Indian.
The innings - Gayle's 22nd one-day hundred - was also the third highest in ODIs behind Rohit Sharma's 264 last year against Sri Lanka and Virender Sehwag's 219 against West Indies four years ago.
Gayle also broke South African Gary Kirsten's 19-year-old record for the highest score in a World Cup match - 189 not out against United Arab Emirates in Rawalpindi - and surpassed his previous career-best of 153.
Along the way, he passed 9,000 ODI runs, but more importantly, ended a slump that had left him without an ODI hundred for 20 months and burdened with an average of 14.9 during that period.
Samuels was reduced to a virtual spectator, despite chalking up his ninth ODI century in a career-best effort. He faced 156 balls and hit 11 fours and three sixes.
Gayle's innings was a tale of two parts. He raised his first hundred off 105 balls, but required only 33 more deliveries to complete his double - reaching the mark two balls faster than Sehwag's previous record.
He joined Brian Lara as the only other West Indian in the 9,000-run club when he reached 79 and despite reaching 90 off 84 balls, he then spent 20 deliveries over the next 10 runs before a single down the ground off medium pacer Hamilton Masakadza saw him reach three figures.
A silent, but effective partner throughout, Samuels reached his 26th ODI half-century off 95 balls and topped three figures off 143 balls, with a boundary to fine leg off Chatara in the 48th over. He opened his shoulders to blast 22 runs from the penultimate over bowled by Panyangara, as West Indies extracted 152 runs from the last 10 overs.
Gayle eventually perished off the last ball of the innings, slicing a catch to point.