Chris Gayle’s autobiography Six Machine recalls a fierce battle with Andre Nel during the 2003/4 Test series.
The big-hitting left-hander recounts the rivalry in the first Test in Johannesburg and the third in Cape Town, in particular.
He was nursing a hamstring injury during the series opener at the Wanderers and batted down the order, falling to strike bowler Makhaya Ntini for eight in the first innings and Nel for 26 in the second.
‘Nel gets me out and he runs down the track, up into my face, all tongue sticking out and bad chat. Now Andre has issues. This particular South African believes there is a man living in his head, a man called ‘Gunther’, who takes over when he is angry. ‘Gunther’ is angry because he is from the mountains in Germany, and when he was young he didn’t get enough oxygen to his brain,’ wrote Gayle.
‘Nel has said all this. He has also burst into tears on the pitch before, when he hit his childhood hero Allan Donald with a bouncer; he’s been fined for smoking ganja on tour in the Caribbean, and he’s been sent home from a tour of Australia after being caught drink-driving. He’s also a trained accountant. And you thought I was complicated.
‘Anyway. All in my face an’ this an’ dat. And in my mind that pisses me off. I stare back at him and keep the mask on. It looks like I’ve let it slide, but I’ve just placed it on ice. After the game he comes up and apologises for what he has done, and I say, “Okay, no problem,” knowing I’m saving it, and he will get all this back.’
Gayle cherished revenge in the penultimate fixture of the four-match series, which South Africa won three-nil. The opener scored a quickfire 116 from 120 deliveries, including 20 fours and a six. Nel clinched a five-wicket haul in the first innings, but not before copping plenty of expense at the hands of the centurion.
‘No man wins over the crowd by standing with his back to the wall. He does it through bravery and by thrilling. I miss the second Test with the injury. By the third at Newlands I’m ready to say hello to “Gunther” again. When you’ve been simmering the revenge for almost a fortnight, it’s got some serious taste to it. So that’s how it all starts, playing a lot of shots, taking the attack to them, putting them under the pump. I take some serious runs off Nel. Off Shaun Pollock, Ntini and Jacques Kallis, but particularly Nel. Where’s ‘Gunther’ now?’