Big Bash League: Hopes high for Chris Gayle’s return after dazzling finish to controversial season

Cameron White hopes Chris Gayle will rejoin him at Melbourne Renegades next season after his bludgeoning half-century on Monday night gave his team a chance to pinch a Big Bash League semi-final berth.

The Renegades’ hefty challenge of scoring 171 in 16 overs against top-placed Adelaide, in order to overtake fourth-placed Sydney Thunder, became a distinct possibility when opener Gayle clubbed sixes from six of his first nine deliveries.

Gayle’s seventh six, from his 12th delivery, saw him equal the record of fastest half-century first set by India’s Yuvraj Singh.

The innings was in vain as only one other player in the Renegades’ top seven, wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, was able to reach double figures. They were eventually bowled out for 143 in the 16th over, giving the Strikers a 27-run win.

“It was unbelievable. It was probably the innings we needed chasing 171 in 16 overs. It gave us a chance, but unfortunately none of the rest of the top four could stick with him,” acting captain White lamented.

“I’ve seen it playing for Australia against the West Indies, I’ve seen it in the IPL numerous times. He’s done it in all the leagues he’s played around the world … and he’s done it against the best as well.

“It wasn’t the right result for us tonight, but for the fans it would’ve been a good game to watch I imagine.”

Strikers coach Jason Gillespie said he was not perturbed when captain Brad Hodge turned to the part-time spin of Travis Head in the aftermath of their team having conceded 1-53 from the first three overs.

“We probably didn’t have much to lose, really,” he said. “Our seamers didn’t quite get their skills right, so he thought he’d bowl Travis – golden-arm Travis Head.

“His first ball went for six . . . but he managed to pick up a couple of wickets, turned the ball, so for us it was great.”

In Head’s first over he bowled White and Dwayne Bravo with consecutive deliveries. In his next he had Gayle caught for 56 from 17.

“The moment Bravo was out first ball I just felt ‘We’ve got this now, we’re well and truly in now’, given they were 1-53 after 3 overs,” Gillespie said.

White said he hoped Gayle would return to the Renegades next season but said the decision was out of his hands and would rest on negotiations between the team and the West Indies player’s management.

Furthermore, Cricket Australia has also flagged the possibility of not registering him for next season on character grounds. Such an outcome would be controversial based on the rapturous response Gayle got from the Etihad Stadium crowd of 25,227 not only during his innings but as he walked off after being dismissed.

White said he had enjoyed his first season at the Renegades. Even though he arrived there after an acrimonious split with Melbourne Stars, the team he was the foundation captain of, he wished them well in their home semi-final against Perth on Friday night.

“I won’t lie: I miss the Stars. I hope they play well in the finals and I hope they win, especially for the boys out there. They’re a good bunch of blokes,” White said.

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