Cape Town, South Africa: Chris Gayle pummeled 77 from 31 balls with eight sixes in the fastest half-century by a West Indian in international cricket to set up a four-wicket win over South Africa in the first Twenty20 international on Friday.
Gayle's destructive and match-winning innings — where he reached 50 in only 17 balls — sent the West Indies to 168-6 and past South Africa's 165-4 with four balls to spare. A few late wickets couldn't prevent the West Indies taking an early lead in the three-match series.
For all South Africa's dominance in the recent test series, it slipped up in its first limited-overs challenge this year with the 50-over World Cup fast approaching. The teams will also contest a five-game one-day series before next month's showpiece in Australia and New Zealand.
Rilee Rossouw scored 51 not out after South Africa won the toss and opted to bat at Newlands, but Gayle was unstoppable in the reply, smashing five fours along with his eight maximums. The left-hander, back in the team after a back injury, had launched five fours and five sixes in the 17 balls it took him to get his half-century. At one point in his knock, he collected 52 runs off 11 deliveries.
"I gave the team a good start so I'm really happy with that," he said.
While the West Indians welcomed back their most powerful batsman, South Africa continued to experiment with its T20 lineup, with Reeza Hendricks opening the batting and Rossouw at No. 4. Rossouw hit a smooth half-century, with his 51 off a relatively sedate 40 balls compared to Gayle. Captain Faf du Plessis backed him up with 38.
Gayle's first boundary was a crunching six over long-on, and he cracked 12 more shots to or over the rope before he was one of legspinner Imran Tahir's three wickets.
West Indies had a mini-wobble when they lost Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels (41), Andre Russell and Denesh Ramdin for just 17 runs near the end. Kieron Pollard, the man whose record Gayle took, finished it with a four, but Gayle undoubtedly won the game.
"It's a bit of a captain's nightmare, to be honest with you, when he hits the ball in all areas," South Africa skipper Du Plessis said.