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.
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.
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.