Gayle the least of SA’s worries

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Cape Town – While South Africa were on Tuesday bemoaning the loss of JP Duminy to a hamstring strain, the West Indies’ preparations for Friday’s mouth-watering World T20 tie in Nagpur were moving along smoothly with superstar opening batsman Chris Gayle reportedly fit for action.

Chris Gayle
Chris Gayle

Gayle, who did not bat in the Windies’ last game against Sri Lanka because of a minor twinge in his left hamstring, is understood to be raring to go.

Andre Fletcher replaced the powerful left-hander at the top of the order – much to the disappointment of Gayle’s fanatical Bangalore supporters – but the 28-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman showed that the 2012 champions are not solely reliant on Gayle to plunder opposition bowling attacks. Fletcher smashed an undefeated 84 from only 64 balls (6×4, 5×6) to steer his team comfortably past Sri Lanka’s 122/9, which asserted the Windies’ position at the top of Group 1 after an earlier victory against England.

“In the second game against Sri Lanka I started, but didn’t get a chance to bat. But Fletcher came in, played his part and grabbed his opportunity with both hands,” Gayle told WICB media.

“He played a fantastic knock and carried right through till the end. And that’s the sort of thing batters require – once you are set in these kinds of conditions, it is very important to bat as deep as possible and it just makes it easier for the team to chase or set a target, so it is very important to see Fletcher come on board and be Man of the Match.

“We have a lot of back-up. I shouldn’t be using this word back-up, we have a lot of guys who are match-winners themselves, who actually can do the same thing and destroy different bowling attacks around the world.”

Fletcher will now likely partner Gayle, who has already a scored a century in this tournament, against the Proteas on Friday.

Johnson Charles has not set the tournament alight in his two innings, after another fearsome batsman, Lendl Simmons, was forced to withdraw from the competition through injury.

Gayle and Fletcher have opened the batting for the Windies before, and the veteran believes he could guide Fletcher when they face the Proteas. “I’ve opened the batting with him on many occasions so I know what sort of a player he is, he is very dangerous and he’s capable of getting big scores as well. So hopefully he can build on this and carry on,” Gayle said.

“He must just continue to play smartly, pick and choose his bowlers to target at a particular time. Also, whatever it is that works for him, like continue being aggressive in the first six. It’s very, very important to try and capitalise on that new ball as a batter.”

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