|| AFP ||
A Chris Gayle half-century blasted the West Indies to victory over Australia in St Lucia on Monday, clinching the five-match T20 series between the sides.
Chasing a modest target of 142, Gayle recaptured his most destructive form in racing to 67 off only 38 balls to take his team to the target with five overs to spare at the Daren Sammy Stadium.
By spearheading the West Indies to an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the series, the 41-year-old also sent an ominous warning that he could yet be a factor in the Caribbean side's defence of the World T20 title later this year.
Gayle's pyrotechnics followed another efficient West Indies performance in the field as wrist-spinner Hayden Walsh again presented the most effective challenge to the Australians with figures of two for 18 in limiting the visitors to 141 for six.
All-rounder Moises Henriques topscored with 33 and struck the only two sixes of his team's innings.
Henriques' contribution followed his side's best opening partnership of the series -- 41 -- between captain Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade.
However, the tempo of the innings dropped considerably when they were separated by Obed McCoy in what proved to be the seamer's only over of the innings.
'I still have it'
Mitchell Marsh fell cheaply for the first time in the series and when Walsh accounted for Alex Carey and Finch in the same over, their hopes of a first formidable total of this campaign effectively came to an end given the relative inexperience of their batting line-up.
Walsh should have claimed a third wicket but stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran missed a straightforward stumping offered by Henriques who managed to make some use of the reprieve.
Yet all of that effort was put into proper context by Gayle's muscular performance -- his first T20 international half-century in six years, with seven sixes and four fours.
Fully aware of all the speculation off the field as to his value to the team, he went after the Australian bowlers not long after arriving at the crease in the opening over when Mitchell Starc dismissed Andre Fletcher.
Starc would actually emerge relatively unscathed from the celebrated power-hitter's assault, returning his most economical T20I figures ever of one for 15 from four overs.
However, all the other bowlers felt the weight of Gayle's bat although paceman Riley Meredith had the consolation of picking up three wickets, including the rampaging Jamaican, for the first time in his brief T20I career.
"I have to thank my entire team for the faith they have shown in me because everyone knows the struggles I have had with the bat in the last few matches," said Gayle on receiving the Man of the Match award.
"They have all stood up for me and I am happy that I was able to stand up today and deliver to remind everyone that I still have it in me to do something special at the World T20."
Gayle passed 14,000 runs in all T20 matches during the innings, the only player to so far reach that milestone.
For Finch, it was another case of his team failing to meet the expected standards.
"We really should have built on that start but I didn't help the situation when I got out and when you're playing a team like this with so much experience and so many world-class players it is always going to be tough," he explained.
"Yes, we are missing a number of key players here but that is no excuse. We expect better of ourselves and haven't managed that yet so far in this series."