Gayle masterpiece keeps Windies in command – Digicel Match Report
Chris Gayle batted for the entire fourth day to set up what is sure to be an enthralling final day at the Adelaide Oval, with all three outcomes very possible and an outright result to the Second Test still highly probable.
James Sutherland – the Chief Executive Officer of Cricket Australia – may well be sending the Digicel sponsored Gayle a ‘thank you’ note for his magnificent innings of 155 not out, which will surely add a few more coins in CA’s coffers through last day ticket sales.
Having curbed his natural instincts for all out attack, Gayle played the innings of a leader that would make even the legendary Clive Lloyd proud. The day belonged to him. He dominated the proceedings – not with his usual belligerent bludgeoning – but with a Chanderpaulesque single-mindedness. Everything else on the day was relegated into the footnotes.
The feat – and a feat it was even though it was only his first century against Australia and his fourth in charge of the team – not only galvanized the West Indian batting but it seemed to have deeper meaning. Gayle was uncharacteristically meticulous and determined. He never looked like getting out, the tall left hander was neither casual in his strokeplay nor lackadaisical in his application. It was not only that he promised his ill mother a century – and has now delivered on his word – but that every shot was infused with a sense of purpose as if part of a larger Gayle-envisioned plan.
Gayle revealed afterwards that the plan is to push for victory on the final day. It underscores a remarkable turnaround from having been beaten inside three days in the opening Test in Brisbane.
West Indies moved from 23 without loss at the start of the day – when Gayle was on 12 – to 284 for 8 at the end of it. Add the 12 run first innings lead and they are 296 ahead with two wickets in hand, with Gayle still at the crease to add a few more at the start of day five and dangle the carrot to Australia.
In their first turn at bat, the Windies had made 451 to which Australia responded with 439. Such evenness converted the match into a second innings affair and Gayle has ensured that his team retains the advantage going into the final day.
In his innings of 155, the 30 year-old scored 43 more runs than all the other 9 batsmen combined. The next best score was 27 from Shivnarine Chanderpaul with whom Gayle added 72 for the third wicket.
This superlative performance, in no small measure will have allayed recent doubts about (a) his suitability for the captaincy and (b) his commitment to Test cricket. A straight-talker by nature, Gayle – after the crushing loss in the previous Test – had robustly defended his position as captain in the media. If there were any lingering doubts, his approach – not so much his blazing bat as is more customary – spoke loudly and clearly on his behalf. He need not say anymore with words, deeds have always been superior.
Such innings, after all, are not played by men who care little about this particular format and who are short on commitment to their team.
And the innings does not stand alone as an anomaly in Gayle’s career. A year ago, in New Zealand, he batted for over eight and a half excruciating hours in constructing 197 and forcing a drawn series. This Adelaide innings may yet allow for a Windies victory to square the series. If it does it will be remembered among the great innings by West Indian captains. If it does not, it will remain unquestionably invaluable given the context.
The day began with the unfortunate loss of Adrian Barath who was run out for 17 as he backed up too far and a Gayle drive brushed the bowler’s hand as it ricocheted onto the stumps.
Gayle patted Barath’s back in sympathy as the gutted 19 year-old hung his head and walked to the pavilion – he looked fatherly to the young Barath. It is not a description one readily associates with Gayle, but it was the moment which seemed to have switched him on.
Before lunch he lost one of his senior lieutenants in Ramnaresh Sarwan (caught behind off a sharp, rising delivery from Mitchell Johnson for 7) and Chanderpaul after the interval. Brendan Nash then stayed with him for a substantial period as they added 61 either side of tea for the 4th wicket.
When Nash (24) was bowled by Shane Watson, Gayle teamed up with Dwayne Bravo (22) for another 57 runs before Bravo – looking to accelerate the scoring – was caught in the gully by Nathan Hauritz off Johnson who finished with 4 for 85 from 19 overs. Denesh Ramdin’s form remains supreme behind the stumps but not so with the bat in this Test as he was bowled for the second time, playing all around a Johnson delivery before scoring.
Darren Sammy (10) flailed outside the off stump until he duly nicked one which carried to Ricky Ponting at slip and Sulieman Benn (5) infuriated Gayle in the final over of the day when he needlessly tried to pull a short ball but succeeded only in spooning it to mid on. Ravi Rampaul (0*) negotiated the four deliveries to safety.
Australia were handicapped by a hamstring injury to Peter Siddle which allowed him to bowl just eight overs and at a significantly reduced pace. Their spinner, Nathan Hauritz, was economical but not penetrative, as Benn had been the previous day when he picked up a five-fer.
Johnson bowled impressively at the start and particularly well at the end of the day but the hosts were flat and hollow in-between. Doug Bollinger (2 for 36) provided intermittent spark but not enough to dislodge Gayle.
And there is yet more to say about the captain’s knock.
Of the 271 deliveries he faced, 185 were not scored from. That statistic shows where his focus was in the innings. It was not on blasting to the boundary at every opportunity. Boundaries were hit not for personal enjoyment or merely because they could be hit but exclusively for strategic run scoring purposes only. He felt 16 fours were necessary and added a six for good measure. A Gayle century without a six just would not be a proper Gayle century after all.
His strike rate in the 197 against New Zealand was 49, against Australia it was 57. For his other nine Test centuries his strike rate was an average of 71. It further emphasizes what a lesson in restraint and patience Gayle was as he batted for his team.
Even when he achieved his century he was not outlandish in celebration. The arms were aloft, he raised his bat, posed for the cameras and indulged in a brief dancehall number as he often does. But he quickly returned to constructing his masterpiece, batting on and on with that sense of purpose.