Chris Gayle is regarded as one of the most destructive and powerful opening batsmen in all of world cricket, but against Bangladesh he was surprisingly sluggish at the top of the order.
In the West Indies’ 73-run win over the hosts in the World T20, it took Gayle 46 balls to take his strike rate above 100—a run a ball—and he was out two balls later for a final score of 48 from 48 deliveries.
This innings took him 74 minutes and included just three fours and two sixes, and he was dismissed in the 19th over with his side 151-3, thanks in large part to 72 from opening partner Dwayne Smith.
It was fortunate for the defending champions that they were facing Bangladesh, whose poor fielding allowed them to reach 171-7 and then fold for 98 all out with the bat.
Gayle’s innings was a curious one and far different from the aggression that has seen him hit 11 T20 centuries in his career, including one for West Indies against South Africa in 2007.
Instead, today he faced 21 dot balls and rotated the strike for singles on just 20 occasions, also hitting a couple of twos in what was a stodgy display of batting.
It is the kind of scoring that we are not used to seeing from Gayle, and it is surely a strategy that would have looked incredibly selfish and foolish against other opposition.
Indeed, he played similarly against India at the top of the order to make 34 from 33 balls, departing in the 13th over with his team struggling to accelerate.
The West Indians then finished at a below-par 129-7 and were helpless to prevent India taking a win by seven wickets.
That game against India showed how the West Indies’ batting strategy can come unstuck and leave them well short of a winning total.
It was only due to the hitting of Dwayne Smith and a late cameo from captain Darren Sammy that they overcame Bangladesh, and it is telling that the third-highest scorer was the extras column.
Coming up for the West Indians are Australia and Pakistan, two good T20 teams who will hope they do not falter as badly as Bangladesh did against the current world champions.
This strategy of Gayle’s—where he tries to play himself in but then finds himself stymied and unable to help his team build a big score—looks like one that is destined for failure against the top teams.
The fact that he did not even rotate the strike against Bangladesh was an enormous worry and forced the West Indies to eat up deliveries at such a rate that they cannot afford to do with only 20 overs at their disposal.
With two games left in the Super 10 stage, Gayle has to live up to his reputation in this form of the game or else his team will limp away from the tournament having failed to defend their trophy effectively.
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