Chris Gayle tends to inspire dread among bowlers but even Pune Warriors’ attack can have had no inkling of the scale of what was about to happen. The West Indian opener smashed a century off only 30 balls for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, the fastest in Twenty20 cricket, then went on to reach 175 not out, the highest individual score in the format. And he hit a record 17 sixes. In typical Gayle fashion, he hardly broke into a sweat.
“I’m lost for words. It was just one of those days. It’s a good wicket and I started well,” Gayle said. “I got a good total. I can’t say it’s a decent total – it’s a good total.”
Since the advent of T20 cricket the game has been revolutionised by big-hitting exploits to the point where bowlers must wonder why they bother to turn up. But even so, scoring at more than three runs per ball is astonishing in any estimation. The fastest recorded hundred in terms of balls faced had been 34, by David Hookes in a first-class match for South Australia in 1982, and by another big Aussie, Andrew Symonds, for Kent at the tiny Maidstone ground in a T20 bash in 2004.
Pune had been an ambitious side in this year’s IPL. Their owners had spent £240m on the franchise and Michael Clarke was supposed to lead them until he was forced to withdraw because of a back injury. He avoided the ignominy – where might that have left the fragile Australian psyche? – and fellow Aussie Aaron Finch was already the side’s third captain in this tournament.
But Finch might not have been too concerned, having seen Gayle’s previous innings in the IPL: 49 not out in 17.5 overs. Actually he might have been more worried about Gayle’s opening partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lankan whose thrilling innovations including the ramp shot have made him one of the world’s most dangerous batsman. Dilshan contributed an almost sedate 33 off 36 balls in a first-wicket stand of 167. England’s Luke Wright had him caught in the deep and he tried to rouse his team-mates. Then the next over went for 29.
In fact it had been an uneventful start; three runs came from the first over. But Gayle had got his eye in, and he hit the first two balls of the next over to the boundary. Then it rained and there was a delay of 33 minutes. The left-hander may have got bored during the interruption because he came out and hit three more fours in the over.
Gayle actually eased up towards the end of his innings, South African AB de Villiers taking up the cudgels to make 31 off eight balls as the hosts posted a record Twenty20 score of 263 for 5. Yuvraj Singh tried to grab Gayle’s bat off him afterwards, while Wright walked away with highly respectable figures. But he could not fire with the bat as Pune managed only 133 for 9 in reply.
Gayle even picked up two wickets in his only over of gentle off-spin, the last of the match. He still had enough energy to perform his Gangnam-style jig; sometimes it’s just your day. Except Chris Gayle seems to have a lot of them.
Hundreds in a hurry: Fastest centuries
Chris Gayle Royal Challengers Bangalore v Pune Warriors, IPL, 23 April 2013
Andrew Symonds Kent v Middlesex, Twenty20 Cup, 2 July 2004
Louis van der Westhuizen Namibia v Kenya, unofficial T20 international, 7 November 2011
Shahid Afridi Pakistan v Sri Lanka, ODI, 4 October 1996
Scott Styris Sussex v Gloucs, Twenty20 Cup, 24 July 2012
Yusuf Pathan Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians, IPL, 13 March 2010