Windies Gayle blowing strong

Chris Gayle & Mark Boucher

Wicket-keeper Mark Boucher looks on as Chris Gayle hits a boundary © Getty Images

Chris Gayle rose to the challenge with his third hundred of the ICC Champions Trophy to earn West Indies a place in the final.

Opener Gayle struck an unbeaten 133 to mastermind a canter past South Africa’s 258 for eight at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

Now the reigning champions face the stiffest prospect of all, with world number ones Australia in wait for Sunday’s showpiece in Mumbai.

“I always like challenges,” said Gayle, after his 135-ball effort earnt 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 six 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,” Gayle added.

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 all.

It was West Indies’ fifth win inside a month here, including one over Ricky Ponting’s Australian side, and Lara believes the qualifying stage they were forced into has been of benefit.

“We must give credit to the ICC for letting us play three games at the beginning,” Lara said. “It allowed us to play competitive cricket while other teams were not.”

South Africa captain Graeme Smith conceded his team were helpless against 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.”

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