Chris GayleAfter being mowed down by Proteas in tests, West Indies began the T20 Series in thundering fashion with Chris Gayle showing raw batting power twice in a space of three days. On January 9 at Cape town, Gayle began slowly after he came to the crease with Dwayne Smith to counter South Africa’s 165/4. After scoring just one run in the first 6 balls, Gayle suddenly got transformed into a batting missile. In the 16 balls he created a record for T20’s fastest fifty off just 17 balls. Gayle carried the momentum further to finish on a 31-ball 77, of which 68 came from 5 fours and 8 lazy-looking but effective sixes. Two days later at Johannesburg, West Indies faced a different and a much stiffer target, when South Africa piled up 231/7. Chasing a record 232 runs for the win, the Gayle-blast did its work yet again. In the company of Marlon Samuels, Chris Gayle collected 152 runs with his own contribution being a smashing 90 off 41 balls. With several cameos backing up the West Indian innings, the chase was successfully completed. In both T20 games, West Indies defeated South Africa in exactly identical endings, winning by 4 wickets with 4 balls remaining.

The first match of the South Africa-West Indies T20 series was played in Newlands, Cape Town on January 9, 2015. South Africa elected to bat after winning the toss and put on 165/4 in 20 overs. On the slow Newlands pitch, this was a good total. Every South African batsman scored in a well-spaced out innings with best performances coming from Rilee Rossouw and skipper Faf du Plessis. Rossouw remained not out on 51 off 40 balls and du Plessis scored 38 off 20 earlier. The West Indies bowling was effective in part but their batsmen needed to score at 8.25 runs per over. They began slowly with just 3 runs coming off the first over and another 5 off the next 4 balls, with 4 byes. After being sedate for 6 balls, Gayle began chancing his arms to send the last two balls of Kagiso Rabada’s over into the stands with a couple of clean whacks. Of the next nine balls that Gayle faced, he scored 6, 4, 6, 4, 2, 4, 6, 4, 4. With Smith adding 8 runs in the sixth over, Wayne Parnell conceded 23 in one fateful over as West Indies raced to 78 off 36 balls. On the 37th ball, however, Smith was trapped LBW by Imran Tahir. By this time Gayle had already moved to 53 off 17 balls, bringing off the fastest 50 in T20 games. This record was earlier held by another West Indian Kieron Pollard, who had hit 54 off 18 six years ago. Gayle continued to blast the South African bowlers and was the second wicket to fall at 114 in the 11th over. Marlon Samuels took over from that point onwards and despite no other batsman getting into double figures; he ensured that the visitors scored the victory by 4 wickets.

In the second T20 game at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, South Africa batted first once again after Darren Sammy sent them in after winning the toss. West Indies took two wickets by the third over but David Miller and Faf du Plessis took command from then onwards. They piled up a 105-run stand in 8 overs, before Miller was dismissed to make it 126/3. But du Plessis kept firing on all cylinders and blasted the West Indies attack to pieces. with the help of 11 fours and 5 sixes, du Plessis took South Africa’s score past 200. When du Plessis finally got out as the fifth wicket, the score had reached 222. Du Plessis scored 119 off 56 balls with 11 fours and 5 sixes as South Africa finished with 231/7.

For West Indies, 232 was quite a stiff target and they began by losing Smith quite early. But again, it was Chris Gayle, who led the West Indies challenge just as he had done at Cape Town. When the first wicket fell at 19, Gayle had scored only 2 runs of 2 balls that he faced. But in the third over of the innings bowled by Kyle Abbott, Gayle blasted him for 22 runs. Marlon Samuels was keeping company with Gayle and they forked out the 50-partnership in just 21 balls. It was apparent they were going for the chase merrily. Gayle reached his 50 off 23 balls. As Samuels reached 50 in 29 balls, Gayle got out caught behind for 90 off 41 balls. West Indies later order produced short blast from Andre Russel, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy and although Samuels lost his wicket after scoring 60 off 39 balls, the victory was always on cards. In the 20th over, when West Indies needed 3 for victory, Sammy hoisted de Lange into the stands to bring the second T20 victory for his side..

Chris Gayle was named as player of the match for the second time running as West Indies won the T20 series 2-0. After playing the underdogs in the recently concluded test series, West Indies had something to cheer about. One more T20 match is scheduled for Wednesday at Durban on January 14, after which there will be a 5-match ODI series. With World Cup coming up soon, both West Indies and South Africa will strive to put up their best show in preparation for the big event in Australia.