Now that Chris Gayle has been recalled to West Indies' ODI squad for the forthcoming series against England – ending a 15-month international exile – things are looking up for the Caribbean cricket team. To celebrate the big-hitting left-handed opener's return, we take a look at five of his best ODI innings.
84 off 67 balls v India, 2002
In a rain-hit ODI at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, a young Gayle pummeled India into submission and helped West Indies level the series 1-1 thanks to a seven-wicket win. His innings of 84 (67 balls, nine fours, three sixes) helped the hosts chase down 123 in a rain-shortened 25-overs match.
After hitting 12 runs off Tinu Yohannan's second over, Gayle mauled the rookie pace bowler for 25 in the next – a four and six followed by three successive boundaries. The two sixes that followed from Gayle's bat were even bigger. When the Indians bowled it full, Gayle punched with alarming power. When they pulled back the length, Gayle savaged the ball with ferocity. He was dismissed seven runs short of victory.
140 off 127 balls v India, 2002
Gayle’s third ODI century – and third in a drawn six-match series against India – was a bullish innings that failed to win West Indies a match owing to an outstanding hundred from Rahul Dravid, but it did earn him the Man-of-the-Match award. Once West Indies were asked to bat, Gayle tore into the Indian attack.
After playing out a maiden over from Javagal Srinath, Gayle got going with a four off Ashish Nehra and didn't stop. Nehra's fourth over began with three successive fours and six, and in his fifth he was smashed for another four and six. A boundary off Srinath in the ninth over brought Gayle's half-century in 30 balls. He slowed down after two wickets fell in succession but batted smartly to reach three figures off 101 balls, and hit two more sixes before falling for 140 (127 balls, 12 fours, five sixes) as a tired shot found long-off.
132* off 165 balls v England, 2004
This innings was perhaps the best example of how sensibly Gayle can bat; it wasn't an out-and-out aggressive innings, yet delivered West Indies a successful chase of 286 in a match they needed to make the final of the NatWest Series, all at a strike-rate of 80. Chasing 286, Gayle powered West Indies to seven-wicket win with five balls to spare, adding a match-winning 187 with Ramnaresh Sarwan on a balmy day at Lord's.
Coolly and judiciously, Gayle ensured there were no major hiccups in a stiff chase. After a quiet start, which included an early wicket, Gayle opened up with a fierce slash off Steve Harmison for four and then produced two firm pull shots to the midwicket boundary. Dropped on 19 in the covers, Gayle promptly tucked into James Anderson. His fifty took 78 balls, after which Gayle stepped up with a six off Ashley Giles over long-on. He never broke a sweat and ensured the asking rate remained in control. When Sarwan departed for a fine 89, West Indies needed 73 from ten overs but Gayle continued in his calm manner. Even Brian Lara's wicket for 10 had no effect on him, and once he scampered a sharp single to reach his century Gayle hung around to finish the deal. It was a mature innings from a maturing cricketer.
133* off 135 balls v South Africa, 2006
Shepherded by another calculated Gayle century in a tricky run-chase, West Indies beat South Africa to reach the Champions Trophy final for the second time in a row. His unbeaten 133 (135 balls, 17 fours, three sixes) – and a 154-run opening stand with Shivnarine Chanderpaul – turned a chase of 259 into a one-sided show as West Indies cruised home with six wickets in hand and 36 balls to spare.
Gayle wasted little time in stating his intentions; Shaun Pollock was slapped for boundaries off his first two legal deliveries and then dumped for huge six. His first five overs cost 34, with Gayle hitting 24 of those off 18 balls faced. Pollock did not bowl again.
Equally fluent off back foot and front, Gayle produced an array of shots. Jacques Kallis was heaved over midwicket for six when he dropped short, and when he opted for a fuller length he was driven down the ground for four. Gayle also thrilled the crowd with some cross-batted shots en route to his 15th ODI century, which came off 99 balls. The entire Sawai Mansingh Stadium gave him a standing ovation.
113 off 106 balls v Pakistan, 2008
Gayle's first visit to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium resulted in a classy century – his 17th in ODIs and second on the trot after an unbeaten 110 against Canada - but it wasn't enough to clinch victory as Pakistan stole a nail-biter.
After five overs West Indies were 11 for 0, but a big six over midwicket off Abdur Rauf got Gayle going. Rauf was then hit for 17 in an over, as Gayle whipped and flicked and drove with immense power. Sohail Tanvir was cut past point as West Indies' fifty came up in the tenth over and successive pulled sixes in Umar Gul's opening over took Gayle to a 33-ball half-century. In a 125-run opening stand, the sixth-best for West India versus Pakistan, Sewnarine Chattergoon contributed just 33.
With Sarwan, Gayle dominated a 73-run stand before the left-hander was out for 113 (106 balls, 11 fours, five sixes) in the 35th over. From here on West Indies managed just 96 runs – and 71 in the last ten overs – to finish on what proved an under-par 294, but Gayle had left his mark in the UAE.