Batting with Chris Gayle is a heady mixture of intimidation and huge fun – that’s according to Peter Trego who shared an 89-run stand with the West Indian superstar in Somerset’s win over Hampshire last week.
Trego said the Jamaican, who will now make his final appearance for Somerset in the match against Surrey at Taunton tonight (Friday) hit the ball harder than he had ever seen anyone hit one before.
The pair batted together for 10 overs last Friday, with Trego making 51 off just 34 balls, and outscoring Gayle for a while in the process. Gayle, meanwhile, played another incredible knock, scoring 85 not out from just 49 balls, including 8 huge sixes.
In total Gayle has amassed an astonishing 328 runs in only three innings in this year’s NatWest T20 Blast, wowing the crowds with 29 sixes in a display of the biggest hitting ever seen at the County Ground.
A packed full house at Taunton tonight will be keen to savour the Jamaican’s last game for the county, following the disappointing news that he will miss Saturday’s game against Glamorgan at Cardiff in an attempt to be fully fit for the forthcoming Caribbean Premier League.
Speaking after last week’s game with Hampshire, Tregs described what it was like to bat with his new teammate: “Fun and intimidating would be probably the two words.
“I back myself to hit a pretty long ball. That now is certainly not the case. I’ve seen a long ball and I don’t hit a long ball!
“So, it’s great. It is slightly intimidating, but it’s very, very enjoyable. Intimidating from the point of view that you just don’t want it to be hit back at you, because the ball comes off that bat like I’ve never seen a ball come off a bat before, it really is quite remarkable.”
Gayle has played a huge role in life at the County Ground in the few short weeks he has been at Taunton, including coaching youngsters and playing in Trego’s benefit game at South Devon Cricket Club.
Tregs said the West Indian opener was a born entertainer: “He is a one-man carnival. He’s great to be around, he’s a great character. He’s got a great smile. He’s a great ambassador for Somerset and cricket.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal to have him here and when you’re at the other end you feel a little bit substandard sometimes to be honest when he’s doing his thing. He really is quite remarkable. He’s a true entertainer. Even if he wasn’t a cricketer, he would be a megastar, because he’s that character and he’s great to be around.”
Speaking personally, Trego was pleased to get a half-century on the board last Friday score after a couple of low scores.
“Personally I got off to a reasonable start [in the T20 Blast]. I got 20 odd in the first game and then two low scores and the world feels like it’s going to end if you get two low scores at the moment, so it was nice to get a score and nice to push the big feller to get on with it. I outscored him – that’s a feather in the cap, I suppose.”
Trego said that it had become really important for the rest of the team to learn how to bat around Gayle.
“Obviously scampering between the wickets for twos isn’t going to be a huge part of our game plans at the moment, but it’s all about executing our big shots and making sure we clear the ropes as well as him, because obviously the last game when he got 150 and not getting over the line that was a bit disappointing from a team point of view.
“But today obviously myself and Hildy batted quite nicely around him and the result is we won the game quite comfortably, so that is something we need to do as long as we’ve got him.”
Meanwhile Gayle told ecb.co.uk that while he is returning slightly earlier than expected ahead of the Caribbean Premier League, he is determined to leave one more parting gift for the Somerset faithful
“I am looking forward so much to the Surrey game,” Gayle said.
“I have enjoyed the crowds at Taunton very much and everyone has made me feel so welcome. I hope I have one more big score in me before I leave.
“Everywhere in the world I go to play T20 cricket my aim is to score centuries and entertain. It’s great that I have been able to do both for Somerset.”
Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard added: “Chris has got himself involved with the community and shown himself to be a tremendous ambassador for the game, as well as a master of T20 batting skills.
“Unfortunately, his prolonged involvement in the Indian Premier League and desire for a short break before the Caribbean Premier League means he couldn’t play as many games as we had hoped.
“But when he arrived we hoped for maybe two big innings from him, one of them in a home game. He has already exceeded that and there is a chance we might be able to get him back for the later stages of our tournament should we qualify from the group.”
Trego acknowledged the importance of last week’s win in pushing Somerset back up the table, but he warned: “It’s vitally important to get to the knock-out stages that we string wins together. You can’t just win one lose one, win one, lose one, you have to get a string together and hopefully the shell-shocked factor of having Chris here is out the window and now he’s integrated into the team, we now know to play around him, so that’s vitally important.”
Somerset are currently fifth in the South Group table, with four points from as many matches.
Tonight’s opponents Surrey meanwhile are bottom with one win from their four games so the hosts will be hoping that the big man can sign off with another match-winning innings.
Looking forward to Friday’s match leg spinner Max Waller, agreed with Trego that it was important to string some wins together. Waller said: “In the context of the group the match against Surrey on Friday is a big one for us because things are quite tight and every fixture is important now.
“The South Group is very strong and everyone is beating everyone else so we have just got to focus on one game at a time so come the end of the group stages we will be right up there and hopefully get a home tie in the quarter finals.
“I always enjoy bowling in T20 but this year at Taunton it has been pretty tough because the wickets have been very flat and we haven’t been getting much assistance.”
Waller added: “However it helps having Chris Gayle in the side to knock the runs off and he has been a great signing and done fantastically well for us. He has also been great off the field with the members and supporters and it’s just disappointing that we have been unable to have him here for longer.”
Somerset have named an unchanged squad of 13 for the Surrey game- Alfonso Thomas (capt), Jim Allenby, Tom Cooper, Chris Gayle, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Johann Myburgh, Jamie Overton, Sohail Tanveer Pete Trego, Marcus Trescothick and Max Waller.
Last week Myburgh and Groenewald were the two players to be left out of the final XI.
Meanwhile Surrey have also named a 13-man squad for tonight’s game.
Steven Davies is unavailable for selection after injuring his hand while fielding in the LV=County Championship game against Leicestershire, so 17-year-old Surrey Academy all-rounder Sam Curran is named in a NatWest T20 Blast squad for the first time.
Surrey travel to Taunton having lost their last match against the Essex Eagles by six wickets.
Fast bowler Tom Curran told ecb.co.uk: “I’m looking forward to playing against Gayle, and I’m sure a lot of the other players are.
“We have not had the start we would have liked in the T20 Blast this season, but if we can win this one then that could be the start of another good Twenty20 tournament for us.”
Despite that poor record, Maynard is wary of underestimating the south London based side, who have reached finals day in each of the past two summers.
“What has shown up in both groups is that every team is capable of beating the others on a given night,” he said.
“The competition is a nightmare for coaches with the fixtures being so spread out and mixed with four-day games.
“That makes it so hard for sides to get on a roll and players to maintain a run of form. Surrey have a hugely dangerous batsman in Kumar Sangakkara and plenty of others who will make it tough for us if we are below par in any way.”
The Surrey squad to play Somerset is: Gareth Batty (capt), Zafar Ansari, James Burke, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Matthew Dunn, Ben Foakes, Moises Henriques, Aneesh Kapil, Azhar Mahmood, Kumar Sangakkara and Gary Wilson.