West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua, 2nd day July 27, 2012

Welcome back, Chris Gayle

Subash Jayaraman in Antigua
Chris Gayle made a successful return to Test cricket after an 18-month absence, leading West Indies with a half-century in Antigua
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Dot, dot, four, four, four, four.

Six balls were all it took to realise what cricket and West Indies had missed in the last 18 months. Facing Chris Martin, Chris Gayle started with two confident defensive shots, followed by four boundaries between mid-on and mid-off.

How would Gayle adapt to the rigours of Test cricket after a long hiatus from it due to contract and discipline issues with the WICB? During his time on the sidelines, Gayle had jetted around the world, plying his trade in in Twenty20 leagues. The damage he can cause in limited-overs cricket is undisputed. New Zealand had a taste of it in the two Twenty20s and the first couple of ODIs.

Test cricket, however, has its vagaries and if Gayle wasn't alert to them, it could have been his undoing. Would he be able to bat for sessions together, sustain his concentration through dry spells when run scoring was hard? Could he rein himself in when necessary and not get carried away?

After Gayle's 125 in the second ODI in Jamaica, New Zealand were able to restrict him and he scored only 32 in three one-dayers in St. Kitts. Had they figured a way to keep him quiet? If so, would they be able to in the Tests as well?

Those questions were answered every time Gayle swung his broad blade, scattering the bowling to all corners of the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. It was unfortunate there were only a few hundred people to watch one of the most belligerent batsman of this generation getting back in to the swing of things.

Since Gayle was lbw first ball to Suranga Lakmal in Pallekele in December 2010, and then left out of the side, West Indies have struggled to find a solid opening partnership. In 31 innings without Gayle, there were only two century opening stands, with 137 being the highest. Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, Kraigg Brathwaite, Dwayne Smith and Gayle's partner today, Kieran Powell, were all tried without much success.

In his first innings back, Gayle put on an unbeaten 145 with Powell and promised to deliver a lot more. It isn't just what Gayle does to opposition bowlers and their plans, but also the effect he has on his partners that West Indies have missed. "It's quite dangerous batting with Chris because you feel like you're going to get hit, but it's a big relief batting with Chris because it takes all the pressure off you, of scoring," said Powell, whose sedate half century was studded with eye-catching drives.

Gayle may be the quiet guy with a nonchalant attitude, but one shouldn't go poking at rattlesnakes to see if they will bite, least of all someone on debut. After Neil Wagner ran the length of the pitch on his follow through and seemed to say something to Gayle, three of the next five deliveries were thrashed to the boundary and Wagner was soon out of the attack. Powell had a ringside view. "At one point, I heard [Neil Wagner] tell Chris something and I don't think that's a very smart thing from him," he said. "If you want to be in Test cricket for long, you wouldn't do that."

Any thing pitched up vanished. Anything wide enough for the piston arms to be freed was walloped. After New Zealand's three-man pace attack was battered, Ross Taylor was forced to bring on Daniel Vettori sooner than he would have anticipated. A routine bunt towards long-on brought up Gayle's half-century. West Indies were 72 for 0 in 14 overs at tea with Gayle on 51 off 40 balls.

Gayle had his share of luck, though. He was on 36 when a straightforward chance off Doug Bracewell was fluffed by an over-eager Daniel Flynn at point. A couple of inside edges also rolled past the stumps.

As the ball got older and New Zealand exerted a certain amount of control through Vettori and Kane Williamson, Gayle was happy to just knock it around and play for time, finishing the day unbeaten on 85. He'd scored 34 off his last 84 deliveries. A big hundred beckons.

Welcome back Christopher Henry Gayle. Test cricket missed you.

Subash Jayaraman is a freelancer, blogger and podcaster based in Pennsylvania. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 22:26 GMT

    This shows the quality of Christopher Henry Gayle. He comes back from being unnecessarily exiled for over a year & stamps his class on proceeding in the first over of the match. Quite often during his absence we have failed 2 reach the 16 runs he made in the first over before losing 1 or more wickets.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 22:06 GMT

    Get SARWAN back and we should be good to go!!

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 21:27 GMT

    if cricket is religion ,gayle is strongest character even stronger than god.if not its not cricket for me

  • POSTED BY analyseabhishek on | July 27, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Hail the Gayle! Hopefully he can rejuvenate the fearless calypso cricket!

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    I am neither a West indian nor a Kiwi. Just switched the TV on to see Gayle batting.What a knock. We have missed you quite badly in every form of cricket. Stay back for a long period of time Chris. You are a genius.

  • POSTED BY MsGeorge24 on | July 27, 2012, 17:39 GMT

    WELCOME BACK TO GAYLE!! CRICKET LOVELY CRICKET! Gayle's name in any version of the game equals excitement, congrats to Gayle on the century.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    welcome back king gayle without u test cricket was boring

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    Gayle did play well against his favourite test opposition ! He absorbs so much pressure from his partners with his aggression, and fiersome scoring rate. Powell has benefited in this game and is likely to do so even more in the future.

  • POSTED BY delboy on | July 27, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    @rayinto the view from where I am allow me to rewind, pause and do all the things I cannot do in the stadium. Of course no one frisks me on entry or take my whistle away. The thing I like most is no one has their feet on the seats anywhere near me or keep standing in front of me when it matters. More people are watching and enjoying this game than you think. I'm using SkyGo on a double dekker bus on a smartphone.

  • POSTED BY rayinto on | July 27, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    Quote: "It was unfortunate there were only a few hundred people to watch one of the most belligerent batsman of this generation getting back in to the swing of things" - all the more reason to schedule test matches for the cricket starved Guyanese population.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 22:26 GMT

    This shows the quality of Christopher Henry Gayle. He comes back from being unnecessarily exiled for over a year & stamps his class on proceeding in the first over of the match. Quite often during his absence we have failed 2 reach the 16 runs he made in the first over before losing 1 or more wickets.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 22:06 GMT

    Get SARWAN back and we should be good to go!!

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 21:27 GMT

    if cricket is religion ,gayle is strongest character even stronger than god.if not its not cricket for me

  • POSTED BY analyseabhishek on | July 27, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Hail the Gayle! Hopefully he can rejuvenate the fearless calypso cricket!

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    I am neither a West indian nor a Kiwi. Just switched the TV on to see Gayle batting.What a knock. We have missed you quite badly in every form of cricket. Stay back for a long period of time Chris. You are a genius.

  • POSTED BY MsGeorge24 on | July 27, 2012, 17:39 GMT

    WELCOME BACK TO GAYLE!! CRICKET LOVELY CRICKET! Gayle's name in any version of the game equals excitement, congrats to Gayle on the century.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    welcome back king gayle without u test cricket was boring

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    Gayle did play well against his favourite test opposition ! He absorbs so much pressure from his partners with his aggression, and fiersome scoring rate. Powell has benefited in this game and is likely to do so even more in the future.

  • POSTED BY delboy on | July 27, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    @rayinto the view from where I am allow me to rewind, pause and do all the things I cannot do in the stadium. Of course no one frisks me on entry or take my whistle away. The thing I like most is no one has their feet on the seats anywhere near me or keep standing in front of me when it matters. More people are watching and enjoying this game than you think. I'm using SkyGo on a double dekker bus on a smartphone.

  • POSTED BY rayinto on | July 27, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    Quote: "It was unfortunate there were only a few hundred people to watch one of the most belligerent batsman of this generation getting back in to the swing of things" - all the more reason to schedule test matches for the cricket starved Guyanese population.

  • POSTED BY rsgarcia on | July 27, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    @David Zep, thanks so much for that. Sometimes I think others have forgotten how much the Windies gave to this sport over the past decades. Derisive, crowing comments from those who were dominated by us in the past seems to be the order of the day. Our own legends and commentators seem to have no faith in us. Sure, Windies has broken the hearts of their fans time and again over the years. But I could never support anyone else. Why would I? Our history alone will keep me warm on cold nights. No Australian would ever betray their proud team by supporting someone else when they are down, yet our people and legends seem to do nothing else some days. I'm so glad that the past two years under Sammy has created something young, inspiring and beautiful again. Is he best captain? No. But he's what we've got, and he's given us everything he has. Now he has a team full of talent behind him, I think Windies have pride for the first time in a long time. Rally 'round the West Indies!

  • POSTED BY 777aditya on | July 27, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    we sure missed Gayle - WICB's stupidity in not playing him has robbed his fans worldwide of almost 2 years of Gayle at his prime, sad -(

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    Revival of caribean Cricket, that is what we are seeing now. I been a fan of cricket at WI for my birth, having seen a lot of bowlers which used give heart breaks for batsman and batsmen who makes bowlers run out of options, the cricket at WI started to decline even during the great batsman Brian Charles Lara. Now I see a revival in the west Indies cricket under the leadership of Darren Sammy. People like Gayle, Narine, Bravo, Chandrepaul, Samuels, Pollard, all reminds me of the old glory. The masters are back, and its sure going to mouth watering for all those legends of WI cricket who are watching. Sure Gayle, Narine, Bravo, and Pollard got lot of fans in India also. Thanks to IPL. IPL made them heroes in the heart of world wide cricket enthusiasts as well in the cricket grounds. It forced WICB to correct few wrong decisions they have taken. Long live West Indies Cricket. We all are with you.

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  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 12:39 GMT

    Revival of caribean Cricket, that is what we are seeing now. I been a fan of cricket at WI for my birth, having seen a lot of bowlers which used give heart breaks for batsman and batsmen who makes bowlers run out of options, the cricket at WI started to decline even during the great batsman Brian Charles Lara. Now I see a revival in the west Indies cricket under the leadership of Darren Sammy. People like Gayle, Narine, Bravo, Chandrepaul, Samuels, Pollard, all reminds me of the old glory. The masters are back, and its sure going to mouth watering for all those legends of WI cricket who are watching. Sure Gayle, Narine, Bravo, and Pollard got lot of fans in India also. Thanks to IPL. IPL made them heroes in the heart of world wide cricket enthusiasts as well in the cricket grounds. It forced WICB to correct few wrong decisions they have taken. Long live West Indies Cricket. We all are with you.

  • POSTED BY 777aditya on | July 27, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    we sure missed Gayle - WICB's stupidity in not playing him has robbed his fans worldwide of almost 2 years of Gayle at his prime, sad -(

  • POSTED BY rsgarcia on | July 27, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    @David Zep, thanks so much for that. Sometimes I think others have forgotten how much the Windies gave to this sport over the past decades. Derisive, crowing comments from those who were dominated by us in the past seems to be the order of the day. Our own legends and commentators seem to have no faith in us. Sure, Windies has broken the hearts of their fans time and again over the years. But I could never support anyone else. Why would I? Our history alone will keep me warm on cold nights. No Australian would ever betray their proud team by supporting someone else when they are down, yet our people and legends seem to do nothing else some days. I'm so glad that the past two years under Sammy has created something young, inspiring and beautiful again. Is he best captain? No. But he's what we've got, and he's given us everything he has. Now he has a team full of talent behind him, I think Windies have pride for the first time in a long time. Rally 'round the West Indies!

  • POSTED BY rayinto on | July 27, 2012, 13:39 GMT

    Quote: "It was unfortunate there were only a few hundred people to watch one of the most belligerent batsman of this generation getting back in to the swing of things" - all the more reason to schedule test matches for the cricket starved Guyanese population.

  • POSTED BY delboy on | July 27, 2012, 15:09 GMT

    @rayinto the view from where I am allow me to rewind, pause and do all the things I cannot do in the stadium. Of course no one frisks me on entry or take my whistle away. The thing I like most is no one has their feet on the seats anywhere near me or keep standing in front of me when it matters. More people are watching and enjoying this game than you think. I'm using SkyGo on a double dekker bus on a smartphone.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    Gayle did play well against his favourite test opposition ! He absorbs so much pressure from his partners with his aggression, and fiersome scoring rate. Powell has benefited in this game and is likely to do so even more in the future.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 17:31 GMT

    welcome back king gayle without u test cricket was boring

  • POSTED BY MsGeorge24 on | July 27, 2012, 17:39 GMT

    WELCOME BACK TO GAYLE!! CRICKET LOVELY CRICKET! Gayle's name in any version of the game equals excitement, congrats to Gayle on the century.

  • POSTED BY on | July 27, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    I am neither a West indian nor a Kiwi. Just switched the TV on to see Gayle batting.What a knock. We have missed you quite badly in every form of cricket. Stay back for a long period of time Chris. You are a genius.

  • POSTED BY analyseabhishek on | July 27, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Hail the Gayle! Hopefully he can rejuvenate the fearless calypso cricket!