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Gayle force rocks Aussie boat

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gayle_storm.jpgThe much maligned West Indies cricket team after an embarrassing summer in England finally showed their prowess in the shortest version of the game humbling the mighty Aussies by 7 wickets in the Group of Death in the ICC T20 World Cup.

Mild mannered Chris Gayle put on his mighty maroon costume and stormed onto the field smashing a heroic 88 from 50 balls to all but propel West Indies into the Super 8s stage of the World Cup.

Clubbed in a group with Sri Lanka, the manner of today's victory was as important as the result itself, leavin g the Aussies in no doubt that they will need to beat Sri Lanka and that in itself may not be enough to ensure that their trip to England isn't cut short.

Winning the toss and opting to bat first, Australia were starring down the barrel of a smoking gun as they found themselves 3 for 2 at the end of Jerome Taylor's opening over. The West Indian quickie picked up the dangerous Shane Watson off the third ball of the innings caught at mid-off, and added a second off the next ball dismissing skipper Ricky Ponting leg before for naught.

Fidel Edwards added Michael Clarke to the casualty list in the fourth over, and Australia were in deep trouble at 15-3. However, some shoddy fielding coupled with some gutsy stroke play enabled Australia to claw their way back into the contest, as David Warner put on 66 for the fourth wicket with Brad Haddin (24), and then another 42 for the fifth with David Hussey (27).

Warner's innings of 63 from 53 balls held the Australian innings together, and allowed the middle order to throw their bats around him. As is typical of the Australian fighting spirit, the batsmen added 106 off the last 10 overs, including 16 from the last one to take the side into the innings break with a very healthy 169 on the board.

Against most teams, that score would be a match winning one, and against a badly beleaguered out-of-form West Indies, it should have been too many on the day.

The only problem was no one shared that version of the script with Superman Gayle. Ably assisted and in-fact often outscored by Andre Fletcher at the other end, Chris Gayle completely demolished a full strength Australian pace attack.

The West Indies 6 powerplay overs contributed 83 runs without the loss of any wickets to their chase. The first over from Brett Lee conceded 10 as Gayle signaled his intentions on ball 1 smashing a full length delivery wide of mid-off for a boundary.

Andre Fletcher got stuck into Mitchell Johnson at the other end, hitting the first ball of the over for a four over mid-on and pulling the next one, literally single handedly over square-leg for six.

Fletcher got a life as Michael Hussey made a rare blunder in the field completely misjudging the flight of an air ball, eventually barely getting a finger nail on it.

With the Windies at 44 from 4 overs, Chris Gayle decided he had had enough of sighter, launching into Brett Lee's third over. Super Gayle hammered 3 sixes and 2 fours as the fastest bowler in the world went for 27 in the over. The most memorable hit of the game was Gayle depositing one onto the roof at The Oval, leaving one wondering how many miles the ball would have really travelled if that piece of masonry had not stood in its way.

With the equation reduced to pretty much a run a ball Gayle sensibly took his foot of the gas, ensuring that he bat through most of innings.

In desperate need of a wicket Ponting introduced the gentle off-spin of David Hussey to the attack in the 10th over. Gayle once again donned his cape and sent two more deliveries soaring into the crowd.

Johnson finally provided the breakthrough for Australia in the 12th over, Johnson falling for 53, the ball after which he got his half-century with a cracking on drive.

The West Indies were just 37 runs shy of a famous win by that stage, and the wicket did nothing to change the outcome of this match.

With Gayle needing 12 for his hundred and his side 13 for victory, the batsman tried desperately to achieve both milestones and perished perhaps justly to that outstanding sport Brett Lee, finding the fielder at Long-on.

The West Indies lost one more wicket, that of Xavier Marshall (who struggled in the field as well), before Ramnaresh Sarwan hit the only two balls he faced for boundaries to bring the match to a close.

Australia will be happy to leave their memories of the Oval behind and head to Trent Bridge for their match with Sri Lanka on Monday. The West Indies will join them at Trent Bridge a couple of days later as they take on Sri Lanka in a match that may well decide the fate of one of the favourites for this tournament.

Mini Scorecard:
Australia 169/7 (20 overs)
Warner 63                Bravo 2-31

West Indies 172/3 (15.5 overs)
Gayle 88                 Johnson 2-36

Photograph Copyright: ICC

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