Fort Lauderdale (Florida), (IANS/CMC) Aggressive opener Chris Gayle stroked his second half-century in three innings since his return to the West Indies team as the Caribbean side broke a nine-match winless slump with a 56-run victory over New Zealand in the opening Twenty20 International of the historic two-match series here Saturday.
The left-handed Jamaican brought the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium to life with a typically flamboyant, unbeaten 85 from 52 balls which helped propel the West Indies up to 209 for two, their highest-ever T20 total, reports Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
He shared a frenetic, unbroken 108-run, third-wicket stand with Kieron Pollard who lashed a brutal unbeaten 63 from a mere 29 balls.
New Zealand then sped to 30 without loss after three overs but lost their way in the middle overs as injury, coupled with a spell of three for 34 from off-spinner Sunil Narine, restricted them to 153 all out off 18.3 overs.
Opener Rob Nicol top-scored with 32 while Jacob Oram got 27 and Tim Southee, 23, but the Black Caps found themselves hampered by the loss of captain Ross Taylor who retired hurt on ten after the sixth over with a shoulder injury.
Ronnie Hira was also unable to bat after he dislocated a finger attempting to take a return catch off a thunderous straight drive by Gayle.
The victory was West Indies’ first in all formats since beating Australia in a T20I nearly three months ago.
It was set up by their batsmen who revelled on an excellent batting strip to post the 13th highest score in T20 Internationals, after they were sent in by the Kiwis.
The first ball of the game from off-spinner Nathan McCullum disappeared over long-off, one of two times in the over Dwayne Smith cleared the straight boundary, as the Windies started impressively.
Smith, who stroked 17 from 13 balls, put on 27 for the first wicket with Gayle before he was bowled off-stump by pacer Doug Bracewell, swinging across the line in the fourth over.
Gayle then anchored two partnerships which lay the foundation for the Windies’ winning total.
He added 74 for the second wicket with rookie Johnson Charles who scored 24 from 29 balls, and then combined with Pollard in a virtual slugfest to bury the Black Caps.
Gayle, who got 53 in his first game back this month after a protracted 14-month absence, started cautiously before exploding to belt seven fours and five sixes.
Charles, mis-stumped by Tom Latham on 19 off McCullum in the 11th over, struck three fours but was less fluent and eventually peeled a catch to backward point off off-spinner Kane Williamson in the 14th.
Gayle and Pollard, two of the biggest names on the global T20 circuit, then dismantled the Kiwi bowling in devastating fashion.
They raised their 100-run stand off just 39 balls, en route to gathering 78 runs off the last five overs of the innings.
Pollard started in high gear, smashing the first ball he received over long-on and two balls later, clearing the ropes at long-off in an over from Williamson that cost 16.
Dropped on 38 by Taylor at fine leg off Oram, the right-hander counted five fours and five sixes, the last of which was carted over long-on off Bracewell and raised his fifty off 24 balls, the third fastest by a West Indian.
The six was the first of four in the penultimate over of the innings which cost 26, as Gayle cleared the ropes with the last three deliveries.
Nicol and Martin Guptil (11) then put on 38 off 24 balls before Narine got the breakthrough with his first delivery when the right-handed Guptil was stumped off a wide down the leg-side.
Taylor, who landed badly on his shoulder attempting to snare Pollard, struck two fours off 11 balls before retiring hurt at 51 for one and the innings slowly lost its way thereafter.
Williamson (10) hit a full toss – a slower ball from captain and medium pacer Darren Sammy – back to the bowler at 72 for two in the tenth over before Nicol departed at 84 for three in the 12th over when his top edge was taken by Fidel Edwards at third man off medium pacer Dwayne Bravo’s first delivery.
When Tim Southee’s 18-ball cameo with two sixes ended with a simple stumping off Narine in the 15th over, New Zealand wilted.