Australia v WI, 2nd semi-final, World Twenty20, Colombo October 5, 2012

'Gangnam' Gayle liberates West Indies

His desire to contribute to his team's success has rarely been stronger. The team itself is threatening to turn the Gangnam Style dance into a story of Caribbean resurgence
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"If you can knock Chris Gayle over early…" mused Australia's captain, George Bailey, ahead of their World Twenty20 semi-final against West Indies. And if you can't, George? If you can't, the night will end in the way you must have secretly feared it might, with the entire West Indies team, Gayle at the centre, with grin as broad as his broadest of bats, dancing to "Gangnam Style".

"Gangnam Style", by the South Korean rapper PSY, is a satire of life south of the river in Seoul, where cool and style are held to predominate. But now there is a PS to PSY and it has been provided by the West Indies cricket team who are threatening to turn the dance into a story of Caribbean resurgence.

"It just happened," Gayle said. "It wasn't really planned. That's me. Depending on what type of mood I'm in, I do something crazy. It's a good dance."

Twenty20 might be hard to predict, but somehow, out of it all, we have got a fitting final: Sri Lanka, increasingly powerful as the tournament progressed, symbolising the growing confidence of a nation freed from terrorist war, against a West Indies side which was strongly fancied before the tournament began and which put its inconsistencies behind it to produce an emphatic performance when it mattered.

Australia did not get Gayle out, but they did manage to limit him to 41 balls, little more than 30% of the strike, which on many nights would count as a job well done. For large clumps of the innings, he stood at the non-striker's end, under-utilised, overlooked. But those 41 balls were enough for him to make 75 not out. He does not need long to make an impact.

Gayle's career has been that of a rebel - "Me talk with my mouth and me talk with my bat," he once observed in an unfavourable critique of West Indies cricket - but in this tournament his desire to contribute to his team's success has rarely been stronger. He met Mitchell Starc, Australia's dangerman, with respect; he was as selective in his strokeplay as he surely ever has been in T20; he even looked, goddammit, as if he was intent from the outset to try to bat through the innings.

If he bestrode the scene, this was far from a solo performance. As he stood at the non-striker's end, a hulk of a man with chain lolling idly over his maroon shirt, he must have liked what he saw. Marlon Samuels was a polished understudy (the Yohan Blake to Gayle's Usain Bolt), Dwayne Bravo produced his most vigorous innings of the tournament, and the final partnership between Gayle and Kieron Pollard was a rumbustious affair, 65 from 25 balls, between two outrageously powerful men who did not much fancy running and did not need to.

He was caught once, off Xavier Doherty, but the catch was held by a policeman 20 yards beyond the boundary boards, lurking behind the sponsor's motorbike. That is a pretty nifty fielding position for Gayle when he is in full flow. Australia's only hope was that under Sri Lankan law, a clean catch would allow the policeman to commandeer the bike and ride onto the square to arrest Gayle for a public order offence.

Australia's only hope was that under Sri Lankan law, a clean catch would allow the policeman to commandeer the bike and ride onto the square to arrest Gayle for a public order offence

He has one chief hitting arc, in the general area of long-on, but Australia's bowlers, like many before them, could not prevent him from insouciantly depositing the ball in that direction. His most imperious blow came against the offspin of David Hussey, who had been called up for his first game of the tournament, and whose reward was to disappear into the second tier of the stand. The blow was measured at 104 metres, the joint-longest six of the tournament.

By then, Gayle had received treatment after being winded. He was feeling short of breath, his heart pumping, enough to slightly disturb him, which brought him down to Pollard's speed between the wickets. They lumbered a two through mid-on with the reluctance of a couple of old stagers in a club match, but how they hit. Pollard's assault on Doherty in the last over was brutal. The more jauntily Doherty tried to run up, the more his face clenched in concentration, the more his left-arm spin pitched, for him, in the most inconvenient places.

It was Pollard, not Gayle, who played the most outrageous shot of the night, a 93mph yorker from Pat Cummins which Pollard dug free with such strength that the ball scooted around the ground and split midwicket and long-on. Just getting a ball like that off the square is an achievement.

There is something about Australia's attack which delights West Indies. It is the sort of fixture where sixes rain down and they need to buy in extra fireworks for behind the scoreboard. They have taken Australia for two of the three highest scores in the tournament, also making 191 for 8 against them in the qualifying stage, only to lose on Duckworth-Lewis.

Gayle took some time checking things out. It is rare that he bats with such a strong sense of care and concentration. He begins every innings by crouching on his haunches, not as much an exercise routine as a feline stretch, an attempt to settle his mind, get into the zone. For nearly five overs, the Australian attack was cased and the tension in the crowd was palpable when he finally awoke to crash Shane Watson for six over extra cover.

In one shot, the mood of the game changed. Gayle was on the move, the x-man was about to happen. Fourteen times, the West Indies cleared the ropes, fireworks studded the night sky and the West Indies batting was liberated.

They have one more challenge, but Sri Lanka, wonderfully marshalled, brimming with confidence and originality, and yearning for their first victory in a major tournament since 1996, will be the biggest challenge of all.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on October 6, 2012, 17:04 GMT

    GAYLE is such a multi character and a man full of entertainment either it is a matter of hitting 6s or dancing, he is a complete package and one of the cleanest hitter. He will be the biggest threat to Srilankans in the final. I think west indies' cricket is improving and they are alSo coming amongst top teams..

  • spinkingKK on October 6, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    Srilanka will be a no-match for the West Indies.

  • desilvac39 on October 6, 2012, 14:01 GMT

    I am a Sri Lankan and this is just remind to Indian fans we were came to final for 3 ocations and this is the 4th time for last 5 years. India just only mange to won world cup because of the luck of Dhoni. So Sri Lankan cricket is well ahead than Indian cricket. You are talking about Kholi,Dhoni,Raina,Sewag and Yuvaraj but your team atleast not selected for semi finals. Indian fans please shout you mouths and watch how Sri Lankan team will lift the world cup on tmr. And all the very best to West Indies but lions will remove Gayle within 1st three overs.

  • t20-2007 on October 6, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    love to see both the teams ( Australia and Pakistan) who conspired to keep india out of the tournament is back in the hut.Aussies whr always mediocre team but sm how thr weakness is shielded by watson ...not today.Good luck to WI and WIPA..land of great cricketers.

  • dummy4fb on October 6, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    Being a Pakistani, SL always there to help us out, To most of Pakistanis, SL is there next best team... But wait... at least I am going to Support WI in the final, Would love to see cleanest hitting one time more, As for Aus, i guess they peaked too early in the tournament

  • dummy4fb on October 6, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    Being a Pakistani, SL always there to help us out, To most of Pakistanis, SL is there next best team... But wait... at least I am going to Support WI in the final, Would love to see cleanest hitting one time more, As for Aus, i guess they peaked too early in the tournament

  • dummy4fb on October 6, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    @Al-Bundy1.Good comments mate.At least you are realistic unlike most of the others of your land. They are just playing up for '' sour grapes''.Feel extremely sorry for them.Any way great performance by Gayle and the company.Hope for a thriller tommorow. It doesn't matter who wins as both teams deserve to be there .We have no high egos and we just simply believe in skills and hard work.We don't believe our teams should be worshiped by everybody else and let that spirit prevail tommorow. All the best to both teams .However, my heart goes for SL...

  • asif616 on October 6, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    Gook luck Sri lanka YOU THOROUGHLY DESERVE IT

  • dummy4fb on October 6, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    I just feel that Westindies should win World Cup this time for their people and for all the fans.....and Just hoping that Gayle delivers one final blow :) We need one more flawless performance from Gayle and Pollard :)..........They deserve to win :) And I would be delighted to see them dance after they have won the Cup :)

  • Vilander on October 6, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    cant say how happy i am to see Windies back, and Gayle,pollard being themselfs...congrats from India.. :), you would have smashed us to smithereenes, even Aus did that to us wonder what would WI have done to Ind team if we played you..Win thew cup champs..

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