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June 13, 2009
Even beating world champions India hasn't been enough for fate to smile on West Indies. Just 15 hours after producing one of the results of the tournament they were pitched against South Africa which left Chris Gayle, who revealed he needs ankle surgery, seething at a schedule he feels has been unfair on his team.
West Indies struggled to match the intensity of their performance against India, slipping to a 20-run defeat at The Oval, which leaves them facing a vital encounter against England, and Gayle couldn't understand why today's games weren't scheduled the opposite way round. Even if West Indies hadn't qualified, this would have been a situation facing Australia and it seems an unnecessary demand on the players in a high-intensity game, although all teams had the chance to discuss the schedule well before the tournament started.
"It might not look like it affects you, but it's a mental thing as well," Gayle said. "We played a day/night game then came here to play a day game. Less than 24 hours later and you are back on the field again. It would have been nice if it was another five o'clock game to give us a bit more of a break. We didn't get much time to plan for South Africa, but we are cricketers and this is what we are here to do.
"Twenty20 may look simple but it takes a lot out of you mentally and can be draining but the itinerary was like this and we came to play a good game of cricket today. It's disappointing to lose, but I have to commend the guys for the efforts that they put in after the victory against India yesterday and then coming here."
West Indies did well to contain South Africa to 183 as Jerome Taylor's middle-order wickets quelled a late onslaught, but the target still required a solid start. Instead, Gayle and Andre Fletcher were back in the pavilion after 3.1 overs and despite the best efforts of Lendl Simmons, who hit 77 off 50 balls, the chase always felt out of reach.
Since his 88 off 50 balls against Australia - an innings that ensured West Indies' progression - Gayle has struggled to hit those heights again. He sat out the Sri Lanka group game and returned against India with a laboured 22 off 28 balls, and here managed 5 off eight deliveries as his body struggled to cope with the workload.
"I have a couple of injuries to be honest," he said. "At some stage I should be having surgery but I'm still giving 100% for the team in whatever area I can contribute and I'm ready to go. I have to try and put the injury aside and get on with it.
"The top of the order let us down and losing early wickets in this form of the game always puts pressure on you and the other batters. But I thought Lendl Simmons batted really well to give us a bit of hope. But we have to try and put this behind us and focus on the game against England."
In many ways it is fitting that West Indies' hopes will rest on a match against England, a team they have jousted with on 17 occasions since February, and injured ankle or not Gayle is aiming to make a point. "It would be nice to get the last say for the summer against England by beating them.
"This is the important one, they have been getting the better of us and it's a must-win. We have everything to play for and will give it our best. We are confident we can beat them and have done it before. There's no two ways about it, we will have to step up, it's a crucial game and can put us through to the semi-final."
The knock-out stages would be a notable achievement for West Indies after the performances they put in earlier during this England trip. From there anything is possible if a team gets a little luck, and maybe West Indies are due for some of that.