GROS ISLET, St Lucia (CMC):
Batting superstar Chris Gayle announced his arrival at the Caribbean Twenty20 the only way he knows how, belting an high-octane half-century to fire Jamaica to a seven-wicket win over Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) and confirm their place in today's play-off final.
The left-hander, not a part of the original squad because of his commitments in the Australian Big Bash, was a last-minute call-up to replace the injured Andre McCarthy and wasted little time in stamping his authority on the tournament.
Gayle smashed 85 from a mere 44 balls, laced with four fours and nine stunning sixes, as Jamaica easily chased down the 151 needed for victory with 20 balls left at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium here Friday evening.
The victory moved Jamaica to 17 points, leaving Guyana and Windward Islands to battle in last night's final game for a place alongside them in the play-offs.
Opting to bat first, the CCC were propelled by captain Kyle Corbin's exciting 47 off 32 balls, while Raymon Reifer chipped in with 37.
Once Gayle opened his shoulders from the second over of Jamaica's reply, there was little doubt about the outcome and by the time he departed in the 14th over, Jamaica were in cruise mode.
He put on 75 off 31 balls for the first wicket with David Bernard, whose 24 required just 22 balls and included two fours and two sixes.
When he lost Bernard in the seventh over, he combined with Nkrumah Bonner (28 not out) to put another 63 off 40 balls, in another fiery partnership.
Gayle was welcomed by a short ball from seamer Jason Holder off the first delivery of the innings and quietly negotiated the over, before moving into another gear.
The unfortunate bowler proved to be Derone Davis. Gayle cleared the long-on fence with the first ball of the second over by the left-arm spinner, but waited until the bowler's next over to really cut loose.
The first two deliveries disappeared to the boundary while the third was lofted over the ropes at long-on. Gayle slapped the fourth ball to the point boundary and finished off with a six over long-off as the over bled 25 runs.
Bernard joined the festivities, belting a four and two leg-side sixes in the fifth over sent down by off-spinner Ryan Austin and which cost 19 runs.
The right-hander soon picked out Davis at point to give seamer Kevin McClean (2-26) the first of his two wickets, but Gayle ensured there was no let-up, thrice clearing the fence with leg-spinner Akeem Dewar in the tenth over that went for 20.
Gayle seemed to be eyeing a century when he moved into the 80s with two sixes in the 14th over bowled by Austin but holed out to long-on in the same over attempting to clear the ropes again.
Earlier, Corbin put on his own exhibition of hitting, slamming five sixes as he paired with Raymon Reifer to add 59 for the second wicket.
Reifer counted three sixes in his 31-ball knock before becoming one of two wickets for left-arm spinner Nikita Miller, who finished with two for 26.