<
>

Gayle lights up Newlands

South Africa were powerless as Chris Gayle hammered a 17-ball fifty Gallo Images

Choice of game
It's a clear Friday night, the powerhouse players of West Indies have turned up for cricket's shortest format, and the future greats of the Proteas are gearing up to impress a passionate Newlands crowd. Indeed, it would prove difficult to not attend.

Team supported
South Africa. Despite the absence of stalwarts AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and Morne Morkel, I was looking forward to seeing whether the Proteas could compete with a full-strength and big-hitting West Indies outfit. Unfortunately for me, an experimental South Africa were thoroughly outplayed.

Key performer
Chris Gayle lit up Newlands like a Christmas tree. Indeed, his swashbuckling 77 off 31 balls was a belated festive gift for everyone who had the pleasure of witnessing this batting maestro at work.

One thing I'd have changed about the match
Faf du Plessis, who scored a quick fire 38 off 20 balls, looked set to notch up his sixth half-century in T20 internationals. However, the middle-order batsman succumbed to the penultimate delivery of Andre Russell's second over producing an easy catch for Darren Sammy. If I had the opportunity to alter the game in the least invasive manner possible, I would have reminded du Plessis that a full toss deserves to be driven, not flicked toward mid-on.

Face-off I relished
Imran Tahir was introduced in the sixth over of the West Indies innings after Gayle had smashed debutant Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell across the park during the Powerplay. His first delivery yielded a wicket as he trapped Dwayne Smith lbw for 20. However, it was his face-off with Gayle that truly enthralled me. Tahir varied his pace and width but the Jamaican opener went after the legspinner without reserve, smashing him for three sixes in the space of five balls. Alas, Gayle's stand ended after he attempted to reverse-sweep a delivery pitched outside off. Morne van Wyk took a tricky catch behind the stumps, signalling Tahir's customary lap of celebration.

Wow moment
Despite Gayle's whirlwind innings, the evening's most spectacular moment was courtesy a well-taken catch in the crowd. In fact, the gentleman who caught the ball after it was smashed by Gayle off Parnell in the sixth over, was seated directly in front of me. He was rapturously applauded by his fellow spectators, and in true cricketing fashion, he threw the ball in the air in sheer delight. And no, I didn't attempt to catch it myself. I probably would have broken a hand.

Close encounter
Sitting in Block K of President's Pavilion, located directly adjacent to the steps leading up to the West Indies' change room, I couldn't help but notice a brigade of eager fans patiently waiting for a picture, autograph or fist-bump as the men from the Caribbean made their way down to the field. After the game ended, the always smiling Darren Sammy and a calm Chris Gayle posed for photos and signed a plethora of mini bats, notebooks, posters and even tickets. Also, Shaun Pollock completed a lap around half of the field, ending at the Proteas' dug-out, and was warmly greeted with applause from the North Stand and Oaks embankment.

Shot of the day
I'm not a fan of Farhaan Behardien but I found his superbly timed six over deep extra cover off the bowling of Andre Russell in the 19th over to be quite pleasing. Very unexpected, I must say.

Crowd meter
The Newlands faithful turned out in their numbers on a calm Cape Town evening for what was to become a "Gayle storm" of destructive and scintillating batting. The stands were choc-a-bloc and the grass embankments were as lively as ever. Hundreds of South African flags blew proudly during the singing of the national anthems and were waved with ferocity when the home side scored a boundary or collected a wicket. A consistent Mexican Wave was engineered on four separate occasions throughout the game. Sadly for the crowd, it did little to prevent a comfortable win by the visitors.

Entertainment
Newlands went all out for its last international fixture of 2015. Fireworks erupted after a boundary was hit and at the fall of every wicket. The bails were replaced with LED lights, which flashed red when the stumps were disrupted. To this end, the pyrotechnics enhanced the game's atmosphere duly complementing the fast-paced nature of T20 cricket.

Marks out of 10
9. Despite the Proteas ending up on the losing side, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, the vibrant atmosphere and the Calypso flavour West Indies bring to every contest in the T20 format.