With the fourth delivery he bowled, Rabada was searching for the bouncer but put a little too much behind it and ended up sending the ball flying over Gayle, over wicketkeeper Morne van Wyk and over the rope for four. Rabada tried to correct with his next ball but went too full. Gayle connected. Six. Then he opted for a good length. Gayle connected again. Six again. And again, and again, and again.
From Rabada's first two overs, Gayle took 26 runs and began to break the back of the West Indies chase. Instead of Rabada following Gayle with the ball, the opposite was happening. The attempted yorker became a low full toss, when Gayle moved to the leg side and Rabada tried to cramp him, he only ended up allowing Gayle the room needed to flay over long-off and when Rabada straightened his line, Gayle played down leg.
It was, as du Plessis implied, Rabada's night to be taught a lesson. "Chris is very versatile in the areas he scores. He hasn't just got one shot. He hits different boundaries off different balls and it's difficult to stop him," du Plessis said. "He offers you very little. The world's most dangerous T20 player for a reason. He usually picks on one guy on the night and that's it. In the IPL, he usually goes after a medium-paced bowler or a spinner so I was surprised he took on a quick."
So was Rabada targeted because he was the quickest of the South African bowlers, the least experienced or the one Gayle knew best? Du Plessis tried to find out after the match. "I thought you would look after your Lions mate," du Plessis said to Gayle afterwards. There was an ever-it ready response: "He tried to hit my head off so my eyes weren't open," Gayle retorted.
Gayle stuck to his guns afterwards too. "He picked on me first. He tried to knock my head off," he said. But there were other reasons too. "He is inexperienced but has got a lot of pace so I wanted to put him on the back foot. This is a learning process for him. He is very young but he is a strong individual and he will be a quality fast bowler for South Africa in the future."
The near future is where du Plessis' is directing his more immediate concerns and they centre on how to get Gayle out. "He is hesitant at the beginning of his innings so you can get him there," du Plessis said. And then, South Africa may be able to walk right through West Indies, according du Plessis. "Chris won the match on his own for them. If we did that I would be disappointed in our batting unit," du Plessis said.
But Gayle did not think there was any reason to be worried about the four wickets that fell for 17 runs at the end of West Indies' chase. "We were just giving the fans something to cheer about. I wasn't worried at all. I knew we would get there in the end."
They did and now Gayle wants to see them finish the job in Johannesburg. "Sometimes when we win a game like this then we are more lackadaisical and lose the next one. It will be nice to have a clean sheet by going up two-nil," he said. It will be even nicer to do it at the Wanderers, where the ball will travel a lot faster. "I hope it doesn't fly at my head there as well," Gayle joked. Rabada would have been listening.