Canberra: Chris Gayle smashed the highest ever individual World Cup score of 215 and his first century in 20 months to power the West Indies to 372 for two against Zimbabwe on a record-shattering day at Canberra's Manuka Oval on Tuesday.
Gayle, 35, clubbed a record-equalling 16 sixes including three in a row, to cash in after a huge let-off on the first ball he faced and was eventually out off the final ball of the innings, eclipsing his previous highest one-day international knock of 153 against Zimbabwe in 2003.
Chris Gayle plays a shot as Zimbabwe's wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor looks on during the 2015 Cricket World Cup Pool 'B' match between West Indies and Zimbabwe at The Manuka Oval in Canberra on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
Records tumbled as Gayle, who also went past 9,000 ODI runs, bettered South African Gary Kirsten's previous highest World Cup score of 188 not out against the UAE in Rawalpindi in 1996.
Only India's Rohit Sharma with 264 and Virender Sehwag (219) have scored more runs than the explosive West Indian left-hander in an ODI innings.
Gayle's 372-run partnership with Marlon Samuels (133 not out) was also an all-time ODI record. The 35-year-old Gayle's century was his first since he made 109 against Sri Lanka at his Sabina Park home ground Kingston in June 2013. Gayle threw his dreadlocked head back in relief as he raised his bat in salute of his long overdue hundred following a growing chorus of criticism over a lack of recent runs.
"It's been a lot of pressure, the runs haven't been coming and this is the first time ever in my career," said Gayle during the mid-innings break. "So many people wanted me to score runs and the messages kept coming in on Twitter and in the end I am glad to have given them something to actually cheer about," he added after his 22nd century in 226 ODIs.
Gayle turned around the West Indies innings with Samuels after the second-ball dismissal of fellow opener Dwayne Smith. Samuels was comparatively more sedate compared to Gayle's whirlwind knock, scoring 133 not out off 156 balls with 11 fours and three sixes. - 'Scary first ball' - But it could have all been different had Gayle not survived a very contentious review in his favour off the first ball he faced.
Tinashe Panyangara had a tremendous opening over, bowling Smith second ball and then looking most unlucky not to get Gayle out leg before wicket with his fourth delivery after a review. Replays showed the ball hitting Gayle's pads and he was initially given not out by umpire Steve Davis, only for Zimbabwe to seek a referral. The TV umpire ruled umpire's call, adjudicating the ball was going over the stumps, but Gayle looked fortunate to still be at the crease.
"It was scary the first ball, it was like 'come on, you're not serious, you can't be out first ball,'" Gayle said. "I needed a chance and I got a break and I made best use of it." "I was under pressure to score runs, and I kept getting messages from Twitter and on my cell phone from fans. I have never known so many people wanting Chris Gayle to do so well."
Gayle's record-shattering innings came just days after he was inadvertently caught up in an embarrassing Twitter gaffe committed by West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron who retweeted a post from a spectator calling for the batsman to be pensioned off.
"I have never felt this kind of pressure, but in the end, I am sure I gave them something to talk about," added the opener. Gayle's knock was only the fifth double century in all ODIs and the first by a non-Indian, with Sharma having gone past 200 on two occasions. "I am very happy to get this first double hundred and ever since Rohit got two, I have been hounded to get one as well," said Gayle.
Samuels also had a life on 27 when he was put down by Tendai Chatara at backward point off Skiandar Raza just before drinks and the West Indies were 73 for one. Gayle was caught by Raza off a no-ball by Panyangara on 121 in the 39th over as things continued to go his way. But off the last ball of the innings, Gayle was out after he skied a catch to Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura.
The last 10 overs caused the maximum damage for Zimbabwe. The African side were hit for an unbelievable 152 runs, propelling the Windies from 220/1 in the 40th over to post a mammoth 373-run target, the fifth highest in Cup history.
Such was the impact of Gayle's fastest ODI double ton, which came off just 138 deliveries, that the patient 133 not out of Samuels looked regular. The 34-year-old went on to score his eighth century and highest ODI total in 156 balls, which included 11 boundaries and three sixes.
Including several other records that were broken, the most significant was that of the collaboration as Gayle and Samuels put together the best partnership in ODI history, 372.
The previous best ODI partnership of 331 was between former India greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid which they scored in 1999 against New Zealand. The previous best Cup partnership, of 318 runs, was between Sourav Ganguly and Dravid against Sri Lanka, also in 1999.
Chris Gayle's stunning innings of 215 in a West Indies total of 372 for two in a World Cup Pool 'B' match against Zimbabwe at Canberra's Manuka Oval on Tuesday was a statistician's delight.
Below we pick out the landmark numbers from a match the West Indies eventually won by 73 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method.
372 - The second-wicket stand shared by Gayle (215) and Marlon Samuels (133 not out), after Dwayne Smith was dismissed for a duck, was a new record for any one-day international partnership, surpassing the 331 shared by India's Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1999.
215 - Gayle's innings was the first double century at the World Cup and beat the tournament's previous highest individual score of 188 not by South Africa's Gary Kirsten against the United Arab Emirates at Rawalpindi in 1996.
16 - The number of sixes Gayle struck equalled the most for an individual ODI innings shared by South Africa's AB de Villiers and India's Rohit Sharma.
5 - The number of double centuries now scored in the 3,612 match history of ODI cricket, with Gayle's the first by a non-Indian batsman after Rohit Sharma (two), Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
3 - Gayle's was the third-highest ODI innings behind Sharma's 264 against Sri Lanka in Kolkata in 2014 and Sehwag's 219 against the West Indies in Indore in 2011.
3 - The West Indies total of 372 for two was the third-highest by one Test nation against another at the World Cup following Australia's 377 for six against South Africa at Basseterre in 2007 and India's 373 for six against Sri Lanka at Taunton in 1999.
2 - Gayle, who took two for 35 with his off-spin when Zimbabwe batted, is the only player to have scored 150 or more runs and taken two wickets in the same ODI. He made 153 not out and took two for 21 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 2003.
1 - Gayle is now also the first man to score a double century and take two wickets in the same ODI.