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Super Gayle steers Windies into the Finals

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West Indies led by a powerful century from Chris Gayle made mincemeat of South Africa’s challenge to storm into the Finals of the Champions Trophy for the third time in the history of the Tournament. The Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur was the venue for the 2nd Semi-Final played between South Africa and the West Indies which turned out to be a one-sided affair once Chris Gayle got his carnage going! The Proteas had absolutely no chance to wake up from Gayle’s onslaught as the Windies raced away to a six-wicket win with 36 deliveries to spare.

It was the 15th ODI hundred for Chris Gayle with this one being the third one in this tournament! The tall left hander had carried his bat through with a 135-ball 133 that had 17 hits to the fence along with three stunning sixes! Set to chase a challenging target of 259, the match was in a balance as the South Africans had the class in its bowling in the form of speedster Makhaya Ntini and the clever Shaun Pollock. But both these bowlers were taken out of the attack thanks to the blistering shots played by Gayle. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the other opener was equally dangerous from the South African point of view as he found the boundaries with total ease. However Chanderpaul couldn’t really go on to score a hundred like his partner as he was forced to retire hurt following a calf muscle pain but not before he made 57 runs giving a 154-run stand in 26 overs for the opening wicket! Interestingly Chanderpaul had batted along with a runner in Dwayne Smith for sometime before he opted to leave the field.

The Proteas needed a big collapse from the West Indian batsmen who were in no mood to crumble under pressure today. Every batsman who had come in to join Chris Gayle had played his shots and had also perished but it never bothered the team who were cruising to a comfortable victory. Windies had lost four wickets in relatively quick time but Gayle was going strong at one end to have the match under his control. All the bowlers took a beating from Gayle and that had forced Graeme Smith to postpone his two powerplay blocks. West Indies had actually got off to a dream start knocking off 76 runs in the first 10 overs compared to the 83 runs scored by South Africa in their 20 overs of field restrictions! It was totally Chris Gayle’s day once he had started off with consecutive boundaries in the first over bowled by Shaun Pollock in the West Indies’ chase. There were no chances offered by Gayle as well as he was determined to see his side finish the match off in grand style. Apart from Gayle and Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan was the other significant contributor with a quick 27 before getting lbw to Ntini.

The big day started with Graeme Smith winning the toss and choosing to bat first. Both sides made two changes each with South Africa taking a big gamble in presenting the inexperienced Loots Bosman, his first match of the tournament. Boeta Dippenaar was dropped along with Charl Langevedlt who had made way to left arm spinner Robin Peterson. West Indies’ changes were obvious ones with the return of Dwayne Smith and Ian Bradshaw in place of Corey Collymore and Fidel Edwards. Jerome Taylor struck early for his side as he got Smith beaten for pace and movement to be clean bowled. Kallis, the one drop batsman got out after getting frustrated at not able to pierce the gaps to leave SA at 65 for 2 in the 17th over. All this while, Loots Bosman was showing some sparkling talent with the bat as he dispatched some loose deliveries with some authority. Bosman could make only 36 runs though before getting out through a soft dismissal. A brilliant partnership then followed between the out of form Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers that laid the platform for South Africa. Gibbs went onto make an impressive 77 from 90 balls with 4 fours and a six before falling in the final over of the innings. Abraham de Villiers was the second highest scorer with 46 to his name, his partnership with Gibbs for the fourth wicket was worth 92 runs.

The bowling from West Indies wasn’t bad and their fielding was quite good saving some important runs. Jerome Taylor continued to impress with his pace to finish off with a couple of wickets which had come at the cost of 48 runs in 10 overs. One thought that the wicket would continue to be slow and stroke making wouldn’t be that easy but Gayle and Chanderpaul just made batting look so easy. The wicket looked as if it was transformed into a batsman’s paradise and that South Africa were short of atleast 50 runs! Chris Gayle was the Man of the Match for his glorious century. He had also bowled decently well giving away 48 runs in his 10 overs which was useful in restricting South Africa around the 250-mark. West Indies who have been the only side to have defeated Australia in this tournament meet them again, this time in the Final to be played at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on the 5th.

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