GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC – Man-of-the-Series Chris Gayle plundered the fastest One-Day International fifty by a West Indian after Man-of-the-Match speedster Oshane Thomas’s had demolished England for a record low, as West Indies pulled off an emphatic seven-wicket victory in the final ODI here yesterday to level the five-match series 2-2.
Choosing to bowl first on a lively pitch at the Darren Sammy National Stadium, West Indies bundled the world number one side out for a paltry 113 in the 29th over – their lowest ever ODI total against West Indies – with the 22-year-old Thomas snatching a career-best five for 21 from just 31 balls.
Veteran Gayle then erased any doubt over the result by storming to a 19-ball half-century, en route to an amazing 77 from just 27 deliveries, as the hosts eased to their target in the 13th over.
The 39-year-old, in his farewell Caribbean tour, clobbered five fours and nine giant sixes in what was his fourth score over 50 in the series. He finished with 424 runs at average of 106.
“It was a fantastic series to be able to tie the series two-all. I thought both teams played well,” Gayle said afterwards. “Today our bowlers were fantastic so you have to give credit to them.”
Inspirational captain Jason Holder, who oversaw West Indies’ recapture of the Wisden Trophy in the preceding Test series, said the way his side had held their nerve throughout had been satisfying. “That was the perfect performance. All of the bowlers put in an outstanding effort. Oshane is an impact player for us and it’s good to see him make this breakthrough,” Holder said.
“He was quick, aggressive and consistent, and he caused trouble. It’s been a total team effort with the ball and then Chris stole the show at the end. Chris is a champion. It’s great to see him bow out in the Caribbean like this.”
Jos Buttler and Alex Hales were the joint top-scorers with 23 as the England line-up never came to grips with the seam and bounce in the pitch, and crumbled meekly at the hands of the Windies pace attack.
Carlos Brathwaite was brilliant, taking two for 17 from eight overs while Holder claimed two for 28. The signs were there when Jonny Bairstow (11) in-edged a quick, full length delivery from left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell and had his leg stump uprooted in the third over at 16 for one.
And Joe Root perished for one off the first ball of the next over, helping a short ball from Holder down to Cottrell at third man, to leave England on 18 for two.
Hales and captain Eoin Morgan (18) then steadied the innings in a 39-run, third wicket stand which proved the best for England, as the visitors appeared to be finding stability.
However, the right-handed Hales had struck four fours off 35 balls when he sparred at one from Brathwaite which bounced, and was caught at the wicket – one of four catches for Shai Hope – in the 11th over.
Introduced in the next over, Thomas immediately made life difficult for the England batsmen, with both Morgan and Ben Stokes (15) appearing uncomfortable against his pace.
It was no surprise then when Morgan perished in Thomas’s next over, attempting to fetch a short one from outside off and holing out to Cottrell at deep square.
Stokes and Buttler added 25 for the fifth wicket but lacked conviction and Brathwaite eventually broke the stand when he got the left-handed Stokes to glove a pull to Hope, after he had gone past the left-hander’s outside edge several times.
Tottering on 88 for five in the 19th over, Buttler put on a further 23 for the sixth wicket with Moeen Ali (12) but once Moeen feathered a loose drive at Thomas and was caught at the wicket, England lost their last five wickets for just two runs.
Buttler was eighth out, top-edging a quick one from Thomas to deep square and giving Cottrell his third catch of the innings.
The chase could have been tricky but Gayle quickly erased the lingering uncertainty, mounting a brazen assault on England’s new ball bowlers, as West Indies raced to 40 from just three overs.
Gayle smashed 14 runs from the first over from Chris Woakes and took another 23 runs from the seamer’s second over, including three massive sixes.
John Campbell, almost unnoticed amidst the carnage, played around a full length one from speedster Mark Wood and was bowled for one in the fourth over.
But Gayle kept up his savagery in Wood’s next over, smashing the bowler for a pair of leg-side sixes before sprinting a single to cover to raise his half-century.
With the result all but assured, Gayle opted for full-scale entertainment. He twice cleared the off-side boundaries off the first two balls of the eighth over from Wood before finding the boundaries on either side of the wicket with the next two deliveries.
He cleared the ropes at mid-wicket with the fifth ball but then missed a heave at a fullish delivery and was bowled.
By then, West Indies needed only 21 runs and Hope’s demise, bowled for 13 missing a heave at Woakes in the ninth over, was of little consequence.