Big Bash League: Chris Gayle makes record-pace half-century in vain as Renegades’ season ends

Chris Gayle lit up Etihad Stadium with a new Big Bash League record for the fastest half-century, taking 12 balls. He ultimately made 56 from 17 balls. Photo: Robert Cianflone – CAHopes high for Chris Gayle’s return after dazzling finish

Chris Gayle signed off his Big Bash League season, and perhaps his Australian career, in devastating fashion on Monday night by blasting a half-century at world-record pace.

Gayle’s phenomenal striking – six of the first nine deliveries he faced were hit for six – was ultimately in vain, as his Melbourne Renegades fell 27 runs short of their target of 171 within 16 overs against top-placed Adelaide.

Few of the crowd of 25,227 were likely to have been too downcast on their departure from Etihad Stadium given a batting cameo that lived up to Gayle’s self-proclaimed moniker of “Universe Boss”.

His half-century from 12 deliveries equalled the record of India’s Yuvraj Singh.

The Renegades were fortunate to win the toss as it gave them an opportunity to field first. Chasing not only played to their strengths – they had won three from three previously in the season, compared with none from four batting first – but gave them more influence on what they needed to do to overtake Sydney Thunder for a top-four berth.

Early wickets were desirable for the Renegades to prevent the Strikers going hard later on, by virtue of having so many wickets in again.

Yet again, however, their bowlers could not penetrate. In their preceding three home matches they had only taken three wickets in the first 10 overs, and they were similarly ineffective here as the Strikers coasted to 0-82 from the first half of their innings.

A total of 5-170 for the Strikers was set up by batsmen at either end of the innings: Jono Dean’s 48 from 35 at the top and captain Brad Hodge’s 37 not out from 21 at the bottom.

Absent Renegades captain Aaron Finch tweeted that fans should put on their seatbelts, yet even that did not prepare them for Gayle’s innings, which ended at 56 from 17.

The requirement to score at just under 11 runs an over to win inside 16 overs was suddenly a lot less daunting when Gayle blasted the last four balls of the first over – bowled by left-armer Greg West – over the boundary rope.

While that could have been put influenced by inexperience with West playing only his second match, there was no such excuse when Ben Laughlin replaced him in the third over.

The wily seamer’s first ball to Gayle was cut over the point boundary, from a full-toss so high it was a no-ball and a free hit. From that free hit Gayle hit his sixth six in seven deliveries, which meant Laughlin had conceded 13 runs in one legal delivery to Gayle.

Having been 40 not out from nine deliveries, there were murmurs of disappointment when Gayle only hit his next for four, and then boos when he struck a single thereafter to end the possibility of the outright record for the fastest half-century in a Twenty20 match.

Gayle’s consistent brutality against spin made it a risk for Hodge to bring on part-timer Travis Head. The wisdom of it seemed especially questionable when crunched his first delivery from head over long-on for six to match Yuvraj’s feat.

As Gayle walked off he raised his bat to the stadium and was met with raucous applause. It was a surprisingly demonstrative gesture, and could turn out to have been his farewell if Cricket Australia decide not to welcome him back.

By the end of that over, Hodge’s decision looked a lot smarter, as Head bowled two of the Renegades’ other key batsmen: White and Dwayne Bravo. It looked like a masterstroke by his second over, the last of the powerplay, when he had Gayle off the top edge and caught behind for 56.

The Renegades deliberately held back big-hitter Tom Beaton, in the hope that nudgers Peter Nevill and Ben McDermott could take them closer to the target before he was needed.

While the pivotal moment of the match was unquestionably the departure of Gayle, what conclusively strengthened the Strikers’ position was the introduction of their specialist spinners: Jon Holland and Adil Rashid.

Leg-spinner Rashid removed McDermott in his first over, while Holland claimed replacement Beaton for just one. A blow even bigger than Beaton’s wicket for the Renegades came from the very next delivery as Nevill was run out at the non-striker’s end after a failed attempt to run a single, to leave the Renegades reeling at 7-94.

Tailenders Cameron Gannon (23 off 15) and Nate Rimmington (26 off 19) did their best to swing their way to victory within 16 overs, but ran out of wickets.

Last man Gannon fell three balls short of their 16-over deadline.

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