Gayle lets the cricket do the talking
Quotes from the first Twenty20 between England and West Indies at The Oval
Marlon Samuels helped West Indies to smile again
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After several days of off-pitch wrangling, it was a relief for Chris Gayle at last to let cricket do the talking. He may have perished for just 5, but his West Indies side batted with belief to post their first win against England this tour.
"Coming into this game with all the negatives, it was a tremendous effort from the guys," said Gayle. And not only does he believe his side played fantastically, but he was delighted with the energy and synergy of his team.
A warm-up win earlier this week against the PCA at Arundel paved the way for a convincing triumph this evening. "That's what I wanted - a good start," said Gayle after his side had rattled up an imposing 208 for 8. "It's up to us now to try and capitalise on it. We pulled together and decided we were going to come out as a unit. We guarantee that once we get it right on the day we are unbeatable."
With a beaming smile, Gayle was happy to concentrate on the events of this evening, including Marlon Samuels' whopping six off Ryan Sidebottom. "That's one of the biggest hits I've ever seen. It was good to see him get some runs as well, and hopefully he can carry on tomorrow." Samuels made 51 from 26 balls.
Gayle also disclosed that he was preparing to bowl the penultimate over when Dwayne Bravo - who wasn't supposed to bowl through injury - asked could he take it. "I obviously didn't want him to bowl, but because of the siituation, he wanted to participate. I have to give credit for Bravo for doing that, even though he is injured. He said he wanted it." The physio was none too impressed with the decision, but Gayle reassured him with a smile. "I promised him he won't bowl tomorrow."
Ahead of his first match as England captain, Paul Collingwood had predicted the Twenty20 experience would be "mayhem", and afterwards it was hard to disagree. But he admitted that at the same time, "it was a massive learning experience. I'm sure we have learned a lot." He made one notable gaffe in the field when he was no-balled for having too few fielders inside the ring, to which he "held his hands up"; and he possibly erred in selection as well, leaving Monty Panesar out and opting for just Michael Yardy as a spin option.
"It was difficult, I thought Yards did well," said Collingwood. "Trying to take the pace off the ball with the medium pacers... You have to give a lot of credit to West Indies - not just hitting down the ground. There was little margin for error. [Shiv] Chanderpaul was clipping it over fine leg. It was very, very hard to set fields."
But he shrugged off the pressure of captaincy with the bat; his 79 from 41 balls gave England some hope. "It didn't play on my mind. Whether I was captain or not, I could only go out and play one way and that was positive."
And he's still positive, post-match. "It's been an experience in a way I'm glad I've had."
Yet with his bowlers going for more than ten an over, Collingwood realises there is work to be done ahead of tomorrow's return fixture at the same venue. "We obviously have to see the areas we did bowl and where we can improve."
One thing he is convinced about, though, is that the 14-man squad, picked as England's best in one-dayers, is right for the Twenty20 mission. "I don't think we can get too carried away [with today's loss]. I'm very confident. We will learn from this experience and hopefully come up with a better plan next time." He and England have that chance tomorrow.
It may have been an unseasonally chilly evening, but the victory was enough to warm West Indian hearts and they will be hoping for a repeat performance on Friday.
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo