'Had a feeling Gayle might turn up for this party'
Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding believes Chris Gayle's whirlwind double-century against Zimbabwe was his most dominant innings and would have come as a relief to the batsman, while England's Jonathan Trott felt the knock simply reaffirmed how crucial Gayle was to West Indies' plans of going far in the World Cup. Holding and Trott were speaking on Match Point, ESPNcricinfo's match analysis show.
Gayle had gone 19 months and 19 innings without scoring an ODI hundred since July 2013, raising questions from certain sections about his place in the team, but Holding said Gayle always had it in him to silence his critics with a big score.
"I had a feeling Gayle might come around to the party this time," Holding said. "He has shown everyone he is still capable of getting runs, and at a fantastic rate. He started slowly, but he has been in bad form, so you could expect that.
"You could see that it was a big relief. The catch that he took and then he just rolled about for 50 yards and he was just having a ball. You can see Chris Gayle walking on the field and people say that he looks a little disinterested, moping. He gets a good knock and everything changes."
Gayle took 105 balls to reach his hundred, but as the innings wore, he grew more authoritative, regularly pulling every Zimbabwe bowler over the leg-side boundary. At the end of his 147-ball 215, Gayle had broken a host of records - the highest World Cup score, the fastest double-hundred, and tied for the most sixes in an ODI. Gayle received ample support from Marlon Samuels, with whom he added an ODI record partnership of 372 runs.
Such was the ferocity with which Gayle played, according to Holding, that it allowed Samuels to go about his own game and compile a handy 133.
"Gayle's innings was special because it was so dominant. Samuels did not look like he was in a rush or that he had to score too quickly. That was because Gayle dominated the entire proceedings.
"If you're batting alongside Gayle with the form he was in today, it doesn't matter how good a player you are. You'll automatically relax a bit since you don't have to take any risk. So all Samuels had to do was push around and put the bad balls away."
Trott said he was reminded of another powerful innings watching Gayle bat: Martin Guptill's unbeaten 189 which sunk England in 2013. On that day, Trott had replied with a century of his own, but England couldn't get close to the 360-run target.
"You could see the relief on Gayle's face, and just how appreciative he was of his team-mates. I think only [Martin] Guptill played a similar innings against us. He scored a hundred, Brendon McCullum came a bit lower down, and they just took the game away from us. We then had to chase 360-odd at the Rose Bowl which was really tough."
However, Trott was also quick to point out how Gayle had enjoyed a big slice of luck in his innings. Tinashe Panyangara had an appeal for lbw turned down after curling one into Gayle when the batsman was yet to get off the mark. Panyangara reviewed, and even though the replays suggested the ball would go on to knock the bails off, umpire Steve Davis' original call was upheld. Then, when he was on 121, Gayle skied one down long-on's throat, but Panyangara had overstepped his mark while delivering the ball.
"The key thing was he could've been given out. If that had been given, none of us would have batted an eyelid," Trott said. "It's amazing how quickly things can turnaround in sport.
"Now everyone has forgotten Gayle's bad run of form, and will only talk about how his 16 sixes lit up Canberra. Sportsmen should remember that when they get down. Their stroke of luck could be just around the corner. Besides the lbw, Gayle was also caught off a no-ball. Mother cricket really shined on him today."
Holding also pointed out that Gayle's charge had upset the rhythm of Zimbabwe's bowlers: "When a batsman is batting as well as that, you tend to lose concentration as a bowler, you're not sure exactly of where you should be bowling the ball. At one point, Sean Williams looked at Elton Chigumbura as if to say: 'What should I do next?' And that is the situation you get yourself into when you're bowling to someone like Chris Gayle."