Chris Gayle of the Jozi Stars celebrates his half-century during their Mzansi Super League match against the Jozi Stars at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – On his final day in the MSL, Chris Gayle delivered. Thrillingly. 

And then the rest of his teammates choked. 

It was the most incredible defeat in the short history of this competition and that it should be the defending champions who should suffer it, at home, somehow makes it seem even worse. 

The bare naked stats: The Stars were 113/2 after 12.4 overs, they added another 22 runs and lost their remaining eight wickets in a 35-ball meltdown, the likes of which has rarely been seen from a professional cricket team. 

Back to Gayle – it had been a dreadful tournament for the Universe Boss until Sunday. He’d scored just 47 runs in five innings, with a highest score of 18. Sunday was his last outing in the tournament, and most likely the last time anyone in South Africa would get to watch him in the flesh. And so he put on a show.

Lungi Ngidi’s first over featured three fours and a six that was comprehensively battered over the square leg boundary probably doing some damage to the wooden seats on the eastern side of the ground. More brutality followed in the next over against Lutho Sipamla, with one six from the 40 year old Jamaican scattering sections of the crowd, which totalled 4260 and another from Stars skipper Temba Bavuma, which landed on the roof of the SA Breweries luxury suite. 

Gayle hit two more sixes and another four off the Spartans English import, Tom Curran as he reached 50 off 25 balls. Two balls later he was out, for 54, at an astonishing strike rate of 200, with the Stars in control  seemingly. A required run rate of six an over is doddle in this format and with eight wickets in hand, there were smiles in the Stars’ dugout as they began looking forward to savouring a first win in the competition. 

And then….well eight wickets for 22 runs in 35 balls happened. Some of the cricket was just plain dumb as the Stars lived up to their coach Donovan Miller’s words after last Friday’s defeat in Paarl – “we keep finding ways to lose,” said Miller. This was a really creative way to lose though.

The Spartans had struggled in their innings with the pace of the pitch. The loss of their in-form openers, Dean Elgar and Theunis de Bruyn inside the power play, meant AB de Villiers, despite slapping his first ball for a boundary needed to play with caution. 

His first 24 runs took 21 balls, but after the Spartans innings had been given impetus by wild innings of 45 off 29 balls by Pite van Biljon – in which every inch of his bat was used. De Villiers, with seemingly little fuss,  went to a half-century, off only 30 balls.

He was eventually dismissed for 53 off 33 balls (4x4, 2x6) giving the Spartans a competitive total, but one that didn’t look like enough once Gayle got going.

And then Gayle got out. And then…

@shockerhess

IOL Sport