On a clear evening, a sizable crowd sauntered into the Wankhede stadium expecting a Gayle storm as West Indies faced England in their opening game of the World Twenty20 on Wednesday.
It took nearly eight overs in the West Indies innings for the big-hitting opening batsman to finally oblige. He smashed back-to-back sixes off English spinner Adil Rashid to make his intention clear and then killed the match, almost single-handedly.
Those were the first set of 11 sixes Gayle hit on the night scoring a 48-ball 100 and taking West Indies to a six-wicket victory.
Incidentally, earlier in the day another old-timer Shahid Afridi had plundered a fifty against Bangladesh. Together, it seemed, they had announced the World T20 open.
England had begun with four seamers, a ploy captain Eoin Morgan had clarified would work on a pitch he judged would favour seamers.
After England posted 182, it looked like Morgan’s boys might just manage to push the Windies to a corner. What Morgan did not account for was the dew.
Handkerchiefs were out early in the second innings. The ball seemed to lose grip. Extras piled on. At one point, the game was halted for a minute as the super-sopper was brought in to mop the ground.
The 36-year-old Gayle lived up to his reputation and brought the hammer down on the English bowling. Pace and spin alike did not have the wherewithal to faze the burly West Indian, whose nonchalant demeanour hardly changed during the match-winning knock.
Rashid was smashed for two consecutive sixes and England’s other tweaker Moeen Ali was hit for three successive sixes in another over costing 22 runs.
Marlon Samuels (37), played the initial supporting role. The duo shared a 56-run stand for the second wicket.
Wickets of Denesh Ramdin and Dwayne Bravo in quick succession did raise some concern, but Gayle held fort and counter-attacked. The only time he slowed down was in the 90s. He eventually reached the three-figure mark with a single off the 47th ball he faced.
England would have a lot to say about the dew, which was not much of a factor in the warm-up games held in Mumbai earlier.
However, their batsmen too could be blamed for not accelerating enough after a steady start. Some big-hitting by the lower order did take their score past the 180-run mark, but with someone like Gayle in the opposition lineup, one can never really be sure.