If the Proteas can get rid of the of the ‘world’s most dangerous T20 player’, we have a chance of winning, says Faf du Plessis.
The Proteas T20 captain gave due credit to Chris Gayle after his destructive 77 off 31 balls on Friday night but, he said, with conviction and sincerity: ‘I think we were the better team’. The West Indies won by four wickets, chasing down South Africa’s 165-4.
The Windies were 52 runs behind with 55 balls remaining when Gayle was dismissed. Yet the Proteas hit back with four more wickets for 17 runs as the West Indies stuttered over the line with four balls to spare.
‘To almost lose from that position, I would have been very disappointed in our batting unit,’ said Du Plessis
‘Chris Gayle just won the game for them. If we got Chris out early, then we would have gone on to win the game,’ said Du Plessis. ‘I have said before, the West Indies are the strongest T20 team in the world, but I think we can beat them.
Gayle was particularly harsh on the 19-year-old Kagiso Rabada, taking 26 runs off his first two overs, with three sixes, and slamming 18 off Parnell’s first over, with a six and three fours. He reached his 50 off 17 balls and helped the Windies to a score of 78 in the powerplay.
It was the introduction of Imran Tahir which brought the breakthrough as both Dwayne Smith (20) and Gayle fell to ill-judged sweeps.
Marlon Samuels’ 41 off 32 balls brought the visitors to within sight of the finish line, only for wickets to fall regularly.
Du Plessis supported Rabada, saying ‘He will learn from this. He is very young and Gayle has done this to some of the best bowlers in the world. He didn’t bowl badly, but when Gayle is in that sort of mood, there is very little we can do.
‘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. He offers you very little. The world’s most dangerous T20 player for a reason.’
Chris Gayle was unfazed by the closeness of the win: ‘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.’
Referring to his assault on Rabada, his Lions team-mate in the recent T20 Ram Slam series, he said the youngster’s biggest mistake was to bowl a short ball early in the over. ‘He picked on me first. He tried to knock my head off,’ he said. But, more seriously, he added: ‘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.’
Now Gayle wants to see them finish the job in Johannesburg on Sunday. “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.’