HIS name is Christopher Henry Gayle and, if you give him the chance, he will hurt you. Zimbabwe know that only too well after Gayle took the fifth double century in one-day cricket history off them in Canberra on Tuesday.
South Africa need to avoid a similar fate when they play the West Indies at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the early hours of tomorrow morning in a match that carries important implications for their World Cup campaign.
Victory would put SA back where they were before their 130-run drubbing by India in Melbourne on Sunday – on course for a smooth landing in the quarterfinals. Defeat would cause the kind of turbulence that sets the seatbelt lights aglow and rattles tray tables.
Marlon Samuels scored a century of his own on Tuesday, but it is Gayle who looms largest on SA’s radar. The dreadlocked lefthander is among the few batsmen capable of rising above whatever circumstances his team are in and beating the opposition all on his own.
But, too often for his team’s own good, he does not. In fact, before Tuesday Gayle had gone 19 ODI innings without reaching three figures.
“It’s unfortunate that Zimbabwe decided to bowl Chris Gayle into some really good form,” Faf du Plessis said yesterday. “On the day he gets in and scores runs he takes the match away from you. So it’s important to get him out early.”
That happened during the West Indies’ ODI series in SA last month when Gayle could score only 71 runs in five innings.
“Within the first few deliveries you bowl to him, you can get him out cheaply,” former SA captain Shaun Pollock said yesterday.
“Once he gets going you have to make sure each bowler has a clear game plan.”
Pollock’s view dovetailed with the opinion of former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop of Gayle’s performance. “Everyone says he should go in and have a dash. I disagree. I think he is good enough to get himself in.
“But his footwork may be a little bit slower and it may take a little bit longer to get in – he’s 35 now. So, if you’ve got pace, you’ve got to run hard at him; you’ve got to be aggressive to him.”