KINGSTON, Jamaica – An explosive 21st One-day International hundred from Chris Gayle followed up steady bowling led by Sunil Narine to propel West Indies to a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the Celkon Mobile Cup Series on Friday here.
All but 31 of Gayle’s 109 were in boundaries, as West Indies successfully chased 209 for victory in the opening match of the three-nation series at Sabina Park.
Gayle treated scores of his compatriots to a typically destructive innings, catapulting West Indies over the finish line with 73 deliveries remaining and making him a shoo-in for the Man-of-the-Match award.
He reached his milestone from 89 balls, when he played a full length delivery from Lasith Malinga to mid-off and scampered a single.
The final result allowed West Indies to draw first blood in the tournament that also involves India, the reigning World champions and recently-crowned ICC Champions Trophy winners, the home team’s next opponent on Sunday at the same venue. It also gave West Indies a valuable bonus point.
Narine was the most successful West Indies bowler with 4-40 from 10 overs, as the Sri Lankans were dismissed for 208 in 48.3 overs after they were put in to bat.
Ravi Rampaul supported with 3-38 from 10 overs and West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo grabbed 2-37 from 7.3 overs.
But West Indies did not have things all their way, as Sri Lanka captain Angelo Matthews led the way with an unbeaten 55 and Mahela Jayawardene scored 52.
Gayle then got warmed up with a silky cover drive for the first of the nine fours in his innings, off Nuwan Kulasekara, in the second over of the chase, but he really flexed his muscles with a four and a pair of his seven sixes in the same bowler’s fourth over.
The towering left-hander reached his 50 from 47 balls with his fifth four from a thick inside edge, when he heaved at a delivery from Matthews in the 15th over.
Gayle and fellow opener Johnson Charles made the match almost a no-contest, when they put on 115 for the first wicket.
Charles failed to match Gayle for fluency, but collected one four and two sixes in 29 from 58 balls before he was caught at long-on off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath in the 21st over.
Gayle continued to boss things and strode confidently to his hundred, moving through the 90s with little or no trouble with a pair of his nine fours off Ajantha Mendis before he crossed the threshold.
He put on 66 for the second with Darren Bravo before he essayed a slog/sweep at Mendis and was caught at square leg from the steepling top-edge.
West Indies needed 28 from 118 balls at this stage and though Darren Bravo was run out for 27 in a mix-up with Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard was lbw to Kulasekara for a duck, they strolled over the line.
Earlier, West Indies decision to field failed to reap early rewards, as openers Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene put on 62 for the first wicket.
But the elder Bravo made the desperate breakthrough his side required, when he had Tharanga caught behind for 25 in the 14th over, wickets fell steadily for the Sri Lankans.
Jayawardene reached his 50 from 49 balls, when he reverse swept Narine to third man for his seventh and final boundary.
But the champion West Indies off-spinner gained his revenge three deliveries later, when he had the former Sri Lanka captain caught behind, a thin inside edge ballooning behind the stumps.
West Indies maintained their discipline for the remainder of the innings with Narine also claiming champion left-hander Kumar Sangakkara caught at extra cover from a mistimed drive after he passed the 11,000-run mark in ODIs.
Gayle had been the villain, when he dropped Matthews, on seven, off Roach in the 25th over and the Sri Lanka captain used the opportunity to anchor his side to a respectable total with five fours in his 77-ball stay.