Chris Gayle’s brilliant 77 off 31 balls set up the West Indies for a four-wicket win over the Proteas in the first of three T20s, at Newlands on Friday night.
This was Gayle in his most imperious form, which he saves for special occasions. After suffering back troubles during his campaign in the Ram Slam T20 series recently and taking time off to recuperate, he came back to do what he does best: humiliating T20 bowlers. He started by taking 28 off two overs from Kagiso Rabada and 18 off Wayne Parnell’s first over. His 50 came up off 17 balls. At the end of the powerplay the West Indies, at 78, were just one run shy of the Proteas’ total at the halfway mark.
There was a glimmer of light when leg-spinner Imran Tahir came into the attack and got Dwayne Smith (20) first ball as he tried to reverse sweep and was trapped lbw. And the cheers went up when Tahir struck down the mighty Gayle, as he too tried to sweep and gloved a sharp catch behind, well taken by Morne van Wyk. His firework display included five fours and eight sixes.
But at 114 for two after 11 overs, there was not much left for the shell-shocked Proteas. Marlon Samuels cut loose., putting on 33 in four overs with Dwaine Bravo (8), until he too fell to Tahir for 41 off 32 balls (5×4, 1×6).
The fall of Bravo, Andre Russell and Denesh Ramdin merely helped to extend the match into the last over.
The Proteas owed their total largely to Rilee Rossouw (51), who put on 46 with Faf du Plessis and 48 with David Miller. Rossouw tried to raise the pressure after the Windies had snapped up Reeza Hendricks (12) and Morne van Wyk (17) within the powerplay. The run rate at that stage was not shabby, at just under six, but there was a need to push on. Du Plessis took charge, slamming five fours and two sixes off 20 balls for his 38, at which point he miscued a full toss, trying to flick it leg-side, only to be caught at mid-on.
Miller was well-contained,with just one boundary in his 24 runs off 21 balls. At least he proved his stamina in the 22-yard sprint.
The fall of wickets managed to rein in the Proteas, who promised much but were never really able to break free. They were going along at 7.9 an over at the halfway stage and really needed a big show in the last five overs, when they were 119 for three.
The loss of Miller, trying to scoop Sheldon Cotterell, interrupted the flow. Rossouw went to his 50 off 39 balls with five fours and the target of 166, at 8.25 runs an over, was challenging enough. Until Gayle stepped up .