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Gayle storms Australia
Chris Gayle smashed a typically belligerent 88 from 50 balls to earn the Man-of-the-Match award, and lead West Indies to a convincing seven-wicket victory over Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 Championship yesterday.
The West Indies captain blasted six fours and six sixes, and Andre Fletcher 53 off 32 balls, as West Indies successfully chased 170 for victory in the third match of the competition at The Oval.
Gayle shared an opening stand of 133 from 71 balls with Fletcher that put West Indies firmly on the path for victory.
Fletcher hit seven fours and one six in 53 from 32 balls in a record stand of 133 with the Gayle.
But Fletcher, Gayle, and Xavier Marshall were all dismissed before Ramnaresh Sarwan steered Mitchell Johnson to third man for his second four to formalise the result with 25 balls to spare.
The victory put West Indies on top of the Group C table with two points, but they more importantly have a healthy net run rate of +2.65, which will be a boost if the results from the other two matches in the group are unfavourable.
Australia face Sri Lanka tomorrow before West Indies meet the Sri Lankans in the final group match on Wednesday at Trent Bridge.
Gayle gave an immediate indication of his intentions, when he leant into the first delivery of the West Indies' jaunt from Brett Lee and stroked it languidly through mid-off for four.
Nothing could have prepared the Australians for what took place for the remainder of the first six overs, when the fielding restrictions were in place.
The fifth over, bowled by Lee, was the most eventful, when Gayle punished the Aussie antagonist for 27 runs.
The big left-hander clobbered sixes off the first, third, and last balls of the over - each bigger than the previous one - and he also struck a powerful straight drive for four off the penultimate ball which almost decapitated his opening partner.
Fletcher, playing in only his third Twenty20 international, was given a reprieve, when Mike Hussey dropped him on 22 at mid-on off Johnson.
50 from 23 balls
After the fielders were allowed to retreat, Gayle and Fletcher still found the boundary, but they ran nimbly in between.
Gayle reached his 50 from 23 balls, when he drove James Hopes through mid-off for a single, and Fletcher swatted his 31st ball over mid-on off Johnson for his seventh four to reach his 50.
By the time, Fletcher fell in the 12th over, caught at extra cover off Johnson, West Indies were 133 for one - well within sight of victory - and the two openers had shared the third highest stand for any wicket in the brief history of Twenty20 Internationals.
Gayle continued to thump the bowling, and was eyeing the second Twenty20 International hundred ever, when he was caught at long-on off Lee in the 15th over.
Xavier Marshall's place continued to be under a cloud, when he scratched around for eight before he was caught at mid-off off Johnson in 16th over with West Indies eight runs away.
Earlier, West Indies bowled steadily, but fielded raggedly, as the Australians, who chose to bat, reached 169 for seven from their allocation of 20 overs.
Dwayne Bravo, Jerome Taylor, and Fidel Edwards collected two wickets apiece, but left-handed opener David Warner anchored Australia's batting with six fours and one six in 63 from 53 balls.
West Indies started brightly, when they restricted the Australians to 15 for three inside the first four overs, but Warner led the fightback, and 28 not out from Mike Hussey, 27 from his brother David, and 24 from Brad Haddin boosted the total.
Taylor provided West Indies with the first two wickets in the very first over of the match, when Shane Watson was caught at mid-off for a duck, and he again sucker-punched Ricky Ponting when he trapped him lbw for a three-ball duck with a delivery that moved back into the Australia captain.
It was the ninth time that Taylor had dismissed Ponting in international cricket, and again drew references that the batsman was his "bunny".
Fidel Edwards put a spring in West Indies' step, when he had Michael Clarke caught at deep backward point for two.
But West Indies were put on the back foot when Warner and Haddin added 66 from 48 balls for the fourth wicket to revive the Aussies.
In between some indifferent ground fielding, West Indies held some fine catches, and this slowed Australia's progress the rest of the way before Gayle blew them out of the way.