Chris Gayle was again the shining light for the West Indies cricket side as they produced a disciplined and at times ferocious batting display in which they threatened to post a score in excess of 330 runs in the rain affected fifth one-day international against the New Zealanders in Napier yesterday.
The captain, as is often the case, led from the front with a magnificently compiled 135 off 129 balls.
It was a lesson in one day batting for the Napier crowd, not to mention the Black Caps bowlers from the Kingston born dynamo.
Upon getting his century he equaled the great Brian Lara's record for one day tons with his nineteenth and in a magical partnership of 170 runs for the third wicket with Shivnarine Chanderpaul put the Windies in the box seat.
Chanderpaul was also in fine form as he put together a well compiled 94 off 91 balls including a delectable reverse sweep for six. He was audacious enough to use the reverse sweep on a number of occasions and had New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori wondering how to counter his improvisation.
Chris Gayle was in imperious form though, smashing the leather to all parts of the ground and giving the crowd something they will remember for many years. When he finally lost his wicket, he was given a standing ovation from most parts of the New Zealand crowd as they realised that this indeed was a special player and a special innings that they had witnessed.
Unfortunately for Gayle, his team could not follow his example and after Chanderpaul went as well, the players resorted to trying to emulate their captain at the cost of missing singles and other easy runs.
The last few overs were dominated by the New Zealand bowlers who at this point in the game came back into the match and could in truth be said to be very much a part of the victory after being hammered all over and out of the park previously.
Gayle's heroics were undone by the normally reliable Napier weather which produced showers for much of the afternoon.
New Zealand were lucky enough to take the series because of this, courtesy of the Duckworth-Lewis system which calculated a victory thanks to the rampaging start that Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder and newbie Martin Guptill were able to give the hosts.
They managed to bring the 100 up in ten overs and after this the rain began to threaten and it was just a case of New Zealand staying ahead of the required rate which they managed with Ross Taylor proving vital even if he should have been given out after a good appeal for caught behind.
So the spoils went to the New Zealanders but the day in truth belonged to the big Jamaican as he again underlined his class and showed the world that West Indian cricket can still produce batsmen of the class of Lara and company.
The Windies head into a home series vs. England beginning in February consisting of 4 tests, one 20/20 game and 5 one dayers. If Gayle can continue his run of recent form he may be able to lead his team to something significant against a demoralised England outfit.
With several players in his side on the verge of breaking out into some decent form it should be an entertaining set of matches for the cricket mad Caribbean nations.
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