Chris Gayle begins ODI farewell with stunning century in Windies defeat
By David Currie at Kensington Oval
Last Updated: 22/02/19 3:08pm
Chris Gayle announced this week that he is to retire from one-day international cricket with the conclusion of this summer's World Cup in England and Wales
He marked both his return to the ODI side and the start of his farewell tour with a stunning century against England in the opening game of their five-match series in Barbados. Sky Sports' David Currie was there to witness it...
With a sizeable crowd in attendance at the Bridgetown Oval, there was a notable hum of anticipation when, at 10.30am local time, Jason Holder won the toss and elected to bat, sending in his big-hitting 'Universe Boss' to make first use of a belting batting track.
Any possible vantage point was sought out to witness some more Gayle greatness. The concession-stand queues around the ground were remarkably empty as the incoming masses fixed their attention firmly on the opening exchanges of the series.
But by the first drinks break at the 17-over mark, Gayle had only 20 runs to his name, using up all of 49 balls to get there. By then, much of that early crowd had dispersed - themselves eager for refreshments, or with the odd one perhaps seeking refuge from the soaring sun in the press box.
The hum too had dissipated, replaced instead with occasional murmurs of disapproval. Firstly, from the vocal English contingent in the crowd at the sight of Jason Roy dropping Gayle when on nine. It was a costly error that would yield a further 126 runs, though with 123 of those paid back by Roy with his own fine hundred.
Gayle's first of 12 sixes finally arrived in the 15th over. "About time!" yelled one West Indian supporter. But the onslaught was still slow to come, with eight dot balls following that straight six off Moeen Ali.
But, in truth, that's as much vintage Gayle as the destructive display of hitting that was to ultimately follow, certainly over the latter part of the 39-year-old's career. The blocking out of an opening-over maiden is a favourite tactic of his, as he seeks to get his eye in early.
There is usually no gradual going through the gears with Gayle. One can swiftly follow the next, a tentative defensive prod preceding a full-blooded bludgeon to the boundary, or over it.
And when Gayle did finally get going, his dozen maximums did more than just beat the boundary, with the Greenidge & Haynes stand, located at cow corner to the left hander, cleared with increasing regularity.
"It was absolutely disgraceful hitting and he is an absolute legend," Mark Butcher told Sky Sports. "The game will miss him when he's done.
"The ball-striking was just out of this world. I think one six went 122 metres. You don't go that far on your holidays."
The holiday-makers soaking up the sunshine on the beaches of the Caribbean sea certainly stood a better chance of claiming one of Gayle's smited sixes, certainly more than any England fielder on the outer ring. Ben Stokes spent much of the morning warm-ups impressively snaffling boundary catches. He needn't have bothered.
From his 20 off 49 balls, Gayle raced through to a 76-ball fifty and then took just a further 24 deliveries to bring up a majestic run-a-ball hundred, his 24th in ODI cricket.
"It's one of my best innings, to be honest," said Gayle at the midway point of the match.
"If you look at my international innings, I haven't started like that. It took me a while to get my first boundary but I stuck with it.
"In life, it's not how you start, it's how you finish."
The West Indies didn't get the finish they wanted on this occasion, with a Roy-inspired England clinically chasing down their 361-run target to take a 1-0 series lead but, on a personal note, it was a stunning start to Gayle's cricketing curtain call.
Watch the second ODI between Windies and England, also in Barbados, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 2.30pm on Friday. You can also follow over-by-over commentary and in-play clips on our rolling blog on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.