Brian Lara had dismissed talk of bad blood between the West Indies and South Africa as fickle and unnecessary the other day. But the way Chris Gayle treated the South African attack suggested the fire of indignation was still raging within.
The burly left hander smashed a sizzling, unbeaten 133 against arguably the best attack on view in the Champions Trophy to help West Indies win by six wickets and set up a title clash with Australia.
Everything prior to the match suggested that it was going to be a keenly contested. The belief gained further ground after the South African batsmen finally woke up from their deep slumber to post a fighting total of 258. The total looked all the more competitive in the light of the performance of their bowlers who had trounced every opposition on their way to this contest.
Enter Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the situation changed in the blink of an eye. The target that looked quite competitive began looking trivial and the fearsome bowlers ordinary in no time.
Gayle, the burly opener, showed his intent right from the first over. Showing scant respect for the reputation of Shaun Pollock and the new ball, he thumped two straight boundaries in the very first over.
And if one thought it was a momentary fit of rage so common with Gayle, a similar approach from Chanderpaul from the other end suggested there was method to the madness.
Soon, the South African bowlers were scurrying for cover in the face of the fierce onslaught unleashed by both the batsmen. Chanderpaul matched Gayle stroke to stroke to keep pace with him initially, but soon gave up as Gayle went into top gear.
He drove anything pitched up in the vicinity of his front foot, powered his pulls to anywhere between square leg and long-on and, as if to add insult to injury, reverse swept Smith audaciously to send the ball sizzling through point to the boundary.
All South Africa could all this while was watch him helplessly, perhaps wondering from where he summoned up that fearsome power. By the time the mayhem finished, Gayle had 17 boundaries and three hits over it against his name.
The best part of Gayle's innings was that he never took his foot off the pedal to give South Africa time to think of some way to creep back into the game. The boundaries and the sixes flowed uninterrupted from his willow even as he lost partner Chanderpaul to cramps (57), then Sarwan, Bravo, Lara and Morton to the bowlers.
But even as the few quick wickets towards the end threatened to twist the tale, Gayle stood there calm to help his team knock off the target and return unbeaten with a broad smile on his face.