West Indies cruise into final after Gayle's whirlwind display
West Indies secured a place in the LG Abans triangular series final after another poor performance by Zimbabwe's batsmen and a pyrotechnic batting display by Chris Gayle at Asgiriya International Stadium on Sunday.
Beaten so convincingly by Sri Lanka on Saturday, West Indies won in an equally emphatic manner today, as they bowled out Zimbabwe for 154 and won by eight-wickets, reaching their target with 16 overs to spare
Gayle started his tour of Sri Lanka with a brilliant unbeaten hundred in Matara in the second warm-up game, but flopped in the Test series, recording three ducks in his last three innings.
The one-day series started badly too, with another duck in West Indies first game and a highest score of 21. But today, in front of a small Sunday crowd, he provided rich entertainment on an otherwise soporific days cricket.
He started slowly, taking 15 balls to get off the mark, and scoring just nine runs in the first ten overs after losing his opening partner, Daren Ganga, cheaply.
But, from the 13th over, he went berserk, clattering the bowlers all round this small hill station stadium. Travis Friend was pummeled for 16 in the over and Henry Olonga for 20 in the next. He brought up his fifty with a six off Gray Brent's first and last ball of the series, before smacking the medium pacer for four boundaries in his following over.
Particularly ruthless square on the off-side, where he hit the ball with awesome power, Zimbabwe's bowlers paid dearly for offering the left-hander too much width.
He added 106 runs for the second wicket with Ramnaresh Sarwan, who scored just 14 of them, before Olonga gained some revenge for his earlier bruising with a stinging catch in the covers.
But, by then, West Indies were well ahead of the game and his dismissal simply delayed the inevitable, as Sarwan (30 not out) and 20-year-old debutante, Ryan Hinds (16 not out) sedately knocked off the remaining 35 runs.
During the morning, after Carl Hooper had won the toss and elected to bowl first, Zimbabwe's top order had failed miserably, for the second time in the series. For a while they looked unlikely to reach three figures, as they slumped to 53 for seven.
They had no one to blame but themselves after a succession of loose shots. Grant Flower (3) played down the wrong line, Stuart Carlisle (1) flashed at a wide delivery, Craig Wishart (6) was run out and Trevor Gripper (4), playing his first and last game of the series, wafted speculatively.
Only Dion Ebrahim, trapped lbw by good ball from Corey Colleymore that jagged back into the right-hander and Andy Flower, also trapped lbw, were blameless.
Medium pacer Darryl Brown, one of three changes to the side that lost yesterday, started his international career well with three for 21 in the middle of the innings, capturing the key wicket of Flower.
Heath Streak and Friend did show some belated resistance, as they added 60 runs for the eighth wicket, with Streak scoring 57 before he holed out at long off.
West Indies now travel to Colombo to prepare for the final on Wednesday against Sri Lanka. Hooper said afterwards he had a "strong feeling" that his side could upset Sri Lanka.
They will be without Brian Lara, who returned from the hospital to the team hotel last evening after dislocating his elbow and will stay with the team until the end of the tour. His arm will remain in a sling for two weeks and the management is hopeful that he can be back playing in 5-6 weeks.
Zimbabwe will now start preparations for a tough series against Sri Lanka, starting on 27 December. They have a three-day practice match starting 21 December.