Lara lauds schedule
West Indies captain Brian Lara believes his side’s quest to retain the ICC Champions Trophy has been aided by the scheduling.
The six-wicket victory over South Africa at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Thrsday secured their passage to the final with Australia in Mumbai.
But being forced to participate in a qualifying round prior to the tournament proper helped develop momentum.
It was West Indies’ fifth win inside a month here, including one over Ricky Ponting’s Australians at the Brabourne Stadium, the venue for Sunday’s showpiece match.
“You must give credit to the ICC for letting us play three games at the beginning,” Lara said. “Because it definitely set the tone for us.
“We appreciated the fact we were playing competitive cricket compared to the other guys who were qualified already.
“We have beaten Australia once and we will be going hard to try to win again.”
Chris Gayle rose to the challenge with his third hundred of the campaign; an unbeaten 133 paced the chase perfectly.
“I always like challenges,” said Gayle, after his 135-ball effort earned another man-of-the-match award.
“That is the kind of cricket I enjoy. If there is a challenge you can call on me any time.”
His latest effort took his tally to 437 in seven matches and guided his side home with half a dozen overs and as many wickets to spare.
Such was the ease of the initial pursuit that a 10-wicket victory appeared on the cards until partner Shivnarine Chanderpaul was hit by cramp.
“I’ve tried to work on building on a start when I get one and the way Shiv played took the pressure off me,” said Gayle, of their 154-run stand.
West Indies captain Brian Lara sent the pair out with instructions to negotiate the opening 10 overs.
“They didn’t just not get out, they scored a lot of runs as well,” said Lara, as 75 runs flowed in the period.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith conceded his team were helpless such was the form of West Indies’ top order.
“I thought it was a reasonable score and one we could defend,” said Smith.
“Chris Gayle played an unbelievable knock, it was a magnificent hundred and sometimes you have to give credit where it is due.
“At the halfway break we were confident but they transferred the pressure on us in the first 10 overs.”