Powered by the first World Cup double-hundred from Gayle, the West Indies zoomed to 372/2 in their 50 overs in reply to which Zimbabwe were bowled out for 289 in 44.3 overs while chasing a revised target of 363 from 48 overs after a rain delay.
Records tumbled as the Jamaican southpaw finally struck form to score his 22nd One-Day International (ODI) century and his first double-hundred. The previous best World Cup individual score was of South Africa’s Gary Kirsten, who scored 188 not out against the United Arab Emirates in 1996.
The Windies started on a poor note, losing opener Dwayne Smith (0) on the second ball of the innings. However, it was a pure Gayle and Marlon Samuels (133 not out) show thereon as the next and last wicket, that of the former, fell on the last ball of the innings.
In between those 297 deliveries, the left-and-right hand combination smashed the hapless Zimbabwe bowlers all over the park in the Australian capital.
Both Gayle, who hadn’t score a century since June 2013, and Samuels were not in the best of forms initially and started slowly. The duo stuck it out in the middle to pick up one and twos and strike a boundary once in a while.
However, they accelerated in the middle overs when the tall and powerful left-hander looked like the Gayle of old, smashing 10 boundaries in his 147-ball innings. His record of 16 sixes is the highest in World Cups and equals the ODI record of AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma, who is the only individual to have two double hundreds to his name.
The last 10 overs caused the maximum damage for Zimbabwe. The African side were hit for an unbelievable 152 runs, propelling the Windies from 220/1 in the 40th over to post a mammoth 373-run target, the fifth highest in Cup history.
Such was the impact of Gayle’s fastest ODI double ton, which came off just 138 deliveries, that the patient 133 not out of Samuels looked regular. The 34-year-old went on to score his eighth century and highest ODI total in 156 balls, which included 11 boundaries and three sixes.
Including several other records that were broken, the most significant was that of the collaboration as Gayle and Samuels put together the best partnership in ODI history, 372.
The previous best ODI partnership of 331 was between former India greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid which they scored in 1999 against New Zealand. The previous best Cup partnership, of 318 runs, was between Sourav Ganguly and Dravid against Sri Lanka, also in 1999.
The only respectable figures achieved by a Zimbabwean bowler was of off-spinner Sikandar Raza, who gave away 45 runs from 10 overs and managed the lone maiden of the match.
In reply, Zimbabwe batted really well to reach a healthy 289 but to chase the mammoth total was too much to ask from the Africans, whose innings was halted by rain when they were at 18/1 in 2.3 overs.
Zimbabwe too did not start well as they were tottering at 46/3 but significant contributions from the middle-order helped them resurrect their innings and put up a fight as they did against title contenders South Africa in their tournament opener.
Sean Williams (76), Craig Ervine (52) and wicketkeeper-batsman Brendan Taylor (37) took Zimbabwe as they close they could get to the target.
The Windies bowlers did not perform as well as their batsmen but somehow managed to bowl out their opponents with pacer Jerome Taylor and captain Jason Holder picking up three wickets. Man-of-the-Match Gayle, with his slow spin, also picked up a couple of wickets which proved to be the icing on the cake for him.
Brief scores: West Indies 372/2 (Chris Gayle 215, Marlon Samuels 133 not out; Hamilton Masakadza 1/39) beat Zimbabwe 289 in 44.3 overs (Sean Williams 76, Craig Ervine 52, Brendan Taylor 37; Jerome Taylor 3/38, Jason Holder 3/48). (IANS)