Gayle’s Century Ignites The IPL

23 Apr
157153.2

ESPNCricinfo

Today Chris Gayle hit the fastest ever century in professional cricket – off just 30 balls.  His brutal assault in the colours of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL was a display of a power hitting – particularly straight down the ground.  He finished on 175, an innings that took just 66 balls and was littered with shots that defied belief.

The powerful Jamaican had necks craning all over Bangalore as he tore apart the bowling on offer from Pune Warriors India, a franchise that has struggled since their inaugural year last year.  But even the greatest IPL sides would have been hard pressed to contain the rampant Gayle, who hit 17 sixes.

Interestingly, two of the Pune bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Englishman Luke Wright, bowled between them 8 overs for 49 runs and one wicket.  The rest of the bowlers – 5 of them in total – conceded 211.  The match was won at a canter by RCB, as PWI only managed to reach 133/9 in their 20 overs.  Gayle bowled the final over, taking 2/5.

For all of the criticisms of the garish and sometimes sickening IPL, this was power hitting to silence even the most well founded of attacks.  The proliferation of t20 games around the world often leads to powerful slogging taking the headlines – but Gayle was hitting through the line and straight.  Yes, the bowling was friendly and on a good length, allowing Gayle to get under it.  More often than not there was ample room on over for him to free his not inconsiderable wingspan into the ball.  But the point remains – this was ball striking at its most cleanest and purest.

So far, this edition of the IPL has failed to capture the imagination.  Maybe it is because too much is played; maybe not.  But this knock – only the second century in 31 matches, coming after Shane Watson’s 101 yesterday – has done a great deal to bring the competition into life.  The tournament has come a long way from Brendon McCullum’s 158 from 73 balls in the first ever IPL match.  But the similarities are there, and they go beyond the simple fact that they both hit a lot of sixes – both Gayle and McCullum rediscovered the element of fun that made t20 such an invigorating and exciting format all those years ago.

The IPL attempts to ignite fun and excitement – even a sense of abandon – to the proceedings.  But there simply isn’t that feel to the tournament.  Most of the time the IPL feels a very intense experience, almost as if the organisers have tried too hard to make it a fun event, when in fact they’ve squeezed all of the enjoyment out of watching it and made it dry.  We are desensitized to it.  But the style that Gayle has – the very persona he exudes when playing cricket regenerates that fervour.  It reminds the viewer how fun cricket can be and, more importantly, shows occasionally that the IPL doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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