West Indies master-blaster Chris Gayle hit the highest score at a World Cup and the fastest ever ODI double century to hand his side a comfortable win over Zimbabwe.
The Windies posted 2-372 at Manuka Oval on Tuesday in front of 5,544 spectators to record the highest one-day international score on Australian soil.
Zimbabwe chased gallantly to post 289 all out in reply – a brief rain delay revising the target down to 363 from 48 overs.
Having narrowly dodged a contentious lbw decision on his first ball, Gayle steadied under light rain to make a drought-breaking 215 runs off 147 balls.
“There’s been a lot of pressure. The runs haven’t been coming,” Gayle said.
“So many people wanted me to score runs and I’m really glad I gave them something to cheer about.”
It was also Gayle’s (2-35) day with the ball, dismissing dangerman Craig Ervine (50) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (18) in his first two overs to expose the Zimbabwe tail.
But it was his crowd-pleasing slogs that stole the show, becoming the first non-Indian player to reach 200 in a one-day international, and the first to do so in a World Cup match.
It’s also the third highest ODI score ever, shy of Indian Rohit Sharma’s 264 and Virender Sehwag’s 219.
His first 100 came off a workmanlike 105 balls. He bludgeoned his second off just 33.
He was aided by first drop Marlon Samuels, who hit a comparatively patient 133 off 156 balls to bring up the highest partnership (372 runs) in ODI history.
Gayle smashed a record equalling 16 sixes and 10 fours, but things could have ended so much differently.
Two balls after fellow opener Dwayne Smith was clean bowled for a duck second ball, Gayle survived a loud shout for a golden duck lbw.
Initial replays looked like Gayle had been trapped plumb, but Hawke Eye surprisingly ruled that the ball would have only clipped the top of middle.
With the umpire’s call standing, Gayle was given a career-defining lifeline.
“I thought: ‘Come on, you’re not serious. I can’t be out first ball. No. I need a chance’,” Gayle said of the agonising DRS wait.
“And I got a break and made the most of it.”
Gayle’s whirlwind knock comes just days after West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron controversially retweeted a fan’s criticism that called for him to be given a “retirement package”.
Up to that point, Gayle had averaged just 14.42 with the bat since his last century 20 innings ago.
West Indies legendary batsman Brian Lara lightheartedly suggested that Gayle had received a “wake up call”.
“I would encourage the president to (retweet) another one,” he joked.
Gayle had more than his fair share of luck.
He holed out in the deep while on 122 but was given a lifeline after a no-ball.
He was caught out again the very next delivery, but had the luxury of it being a free hit.
His knock ended on the final ball of the innings when he top edged a delivery from Hamilton Masakadza (1-39), who had come on for Tendai Chatara midway through the last over after too many beamers were bowled.
Zimbabwe batsman Sean Williams put up a respectable fight for his team with a second consecutive 76, while West Indian bowler Jerome Taylor (3-38) performed best with the ball.