Gayle blows Windies to final
Chris Gayle secured holders West Indies’ cruise into the final of the ICC Champions Trophy with a hundred against South Africa.
Having been forced to qualify for a tournament they won in England two years ago, Brian Lara’s men will now face Australia in Mumbai for the second time here in Sunday’s showpiece.
The West Indians made a mockery of their 259-run target, getting home in 44 overs with six wickets intact and thus extending a recent hold over South Africa in big events - this was the third victory in a row stretching back to the last World Cup.
South Africa’s attack, so incisive on the seamer-friendly surface at Mohali, were made to look toothless at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul contributed 57 before cramps forced him to initially call for a runner and ultimately retire, after a 145-run partnership for the first wicket.
Gayle, who came into the game on the back of 304 runs in six innings here, registered his second century in a row, his third of the campaign and 15th of his career off just 106 balls.
The 27-year-old wasted no time in launching his assault as he blasted the first two legitimate deliveries of the innings, sent down by Shaun Pollock, through mid-off for four.
To emphasise his power, Gayle also lofted Pollock for a six over long-off as West Indies took 75 from the first 10 overs.
Faced with such an onslaught, Proteas captain Graeme Smith was dissuaded from extending the power play period and instead opted to slow down the pace.
Although his own off-spin took some of the sting out the innings, as boundaries gave way mostly to singles, Gayle eased to his half-century, off 48 deliveries.
Chanderpaul was no slouch either, the signature stroke of his contribution an astounding scooped sweep for six over fine leg off fast bowler Andre Nel.
Twice more Gayle cleared the ropes in reaching three figures, seizing mercilessly on a slower ball from Jacques Kallis to short-arm jab over long-on, the same region in which he deposited Robin Peterson’s left-arm spin.
South Africa’s initial breakthrough came eight overs after Chanderpaul hobbled off, when Ramnaresh Sarwan’s boundary-laden cameo was terminated by a full ball from Makhaya Ntini.
A second success was gifted by Dwayne Bravo’s audacious charge down the pitch at Peterson, which gave Smith plenty of time to hit the stumps from slip after the ball ricocheted off the batsman’s pads.
Two further inconsequential dismissals - those of Lara and Runako Morton - delayed the inevitable conclusion.
It was delivered when Gayle caressed his 17th four past spinner Peterson to finish unbeaten on 133.
Earlier Herschelle Gibbs’ return to form helped South Africa post 258 for eight, a competitive total if not an imposing one on a sluggish pitch.
Gibbs, who came into the contest on the back of 18 runs in his previous four one-day internationals, struck 77 before being dismissed right at the death.
He was last out of five during the final 10 overs, in fact, as South Africa lost the momentum built by Gibbs’ 92-run stand with AB de Villiers.
The South Africans, kept in check by some disciplined early bowling, were well-placed on 182 for three after 40 overs and a score closer to 300 was a realistic proposition from that position.
None of the middle-order hitters came off, however, after Lara’s direct hit from mid-on accounted for de Villiers by the narrowest of margins at the bowler’s end.