Take Five: Gayle force at Taunton

Looking at five defining moments that made Somerset’s 2015 what it was! We continue with the short but phenomenal contribution made by Chris Gayle.

It is Tuesday 2nd June 2015 at the County Ground in Taunton. Somerset County Cricket Club had arranged an impromptu Press Conference for 9 a.m. so local media representatives could meet Chris Gayle, the mighty West Indian who had made his home debut for the cider county against Kent on the same ground two days before on Sunday 31st May.

It was a game Somerset amazingly lost by 3 runs but the great West Indian did not fail to impress. His innings of 151 not out in a losing cause will live long in the memory of all those at the County Ground that day and rewarded fans for their patience having been promised the chance to watch Gayle play for Somerset way back in 2012. The Caribbean big-hitter was in dispute with the West Indies authorities at the time so was in the midst of a self-imposed international exile so had signed for the cider county. Unfortunately for Somerset Gayle made peace with the powers-that-be in Team West Indies so returned to the national side.

It was fitting that Gayle said at that time that he always intended to play for Somerset in the future and he was true to his word finally making his debut on Friday 29th May at Chelmsford when Gayle hit the Essex bowling attack for 93 guiding his new team-mates to a fine win.

After the home debut Gayle showed his class off-the-field as he stayed pitch side for about 90 minutes to meet the fans; signing autographs and lining up for what appeared to be an endless amount of selfie’s and photos as the Somerset public scrambled to get close to the great man. It was a great gesture and the right thing to do of course.

In the press box after the game we were waiting eagerly to meet him but with time flying by many of us had to head off especially as the queues of people by the pitch were not apparently getting any shorter.

Hence the hastily arranged press conference a couple of days later.

But history seemed to be repeating itself as 9 ‘o’ clock came and went with no sign of the big man. The small collection of people present were informed the delay was due to ‘Caribbean time-keeping’ but this was denied almost as soon as it was made. Then, just before half-nine, Chris Gayle entered the room to a deathly hush. Shrugging his shoulders he simply said: “Am I late?”

So laid back.

A short Q&A session of about 15 minutes followed and at the end of this Gayle continued to show his sense of fun when the meeting was called to a close by announcing: “Great, let’s have a pint!”

It was probably a bit too early for that – even for me. The session ended with the great man holding a few one-on-one sessions with local radio and TV. And the odd selfie because press guys are human too!

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Only one more game followed, another chance to thrill the Taunton crowd as Hampshire were put to the sword with Gayle hitting 85 not out in an easy victory for Somerset by 8 wickets with 9 balls to spare.

Incredibly Gayle finished his short time at the County Ground hitting 328 runs in just three innings, two of those undefeated. His 29 sixes hit was matched only by Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley and Sussex stalwart Luke Wright, but they needed 14 and 13 innings’ respectively to achieve the feat. Gayle also hit 22 fours so averaged 7.33 fours and 9.66 sixes per innings. Not bad value for money!

To further highlight his quality Gayle even attended a charity game at South Devon CC as part of Peter Trego’s Benefit Year and even paid for a year’s membership to show his support.

A quality cricketer. A quality man. And in a season of disappointment Chris Gayle’s short but phenomenal contribution is one of the five defining moments offering many great memories for the faithful.

The aforementioned game against Kent was not the first time that Chris Gayle had played at the County Ground as he lined up against Somerset in two games in the early noughties with limited success.

On 23rd August 2000 a 20 year-old Gayle was part of a West Indies touring team that played against Jamie Cox’s Somerset side in a game famous for Keith Parsons scoring his highest ever first class score, an undefeated 193 in the home team’s first innings.

Batting first Somerset hit a mammoth 488 with Parsons’ innings dominating supported by useful contributions from skipper Cox (41), Peter Bowler (47) and Mike Burns (55). A future Somerset player, Nixon McLean, took two wickets for 99 runs for the tourists.

The Windies struggled with the bat despite having Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in their line-up. Their 290 was bolstered by Mahendra Nagamootoo’s 100 but Gayle lasted just 16 balls for a meagre 4 before he was out to Somerset’s current bowling coach Jason Kerr, caught by Parsons.

Somerset piled on the agony for the Windies and declared on 240 for 6 with Burns again in the runs top scoring with 78 not out. Gayle had some joy with the ball taking 4 for 86 in 23 overs.

Kerr once again proved to be Gayle’s nemesis this time bowling the youngster for a second ball duck as he helped himself to 4 wickets for 18 in 11 overs. Jase also bowled Lara for 10.

Somerset won the game by 269 runs in a famous victory.

Gayle2_1Gayle returned to the West Country two seasons later with the West Indians A team in a thriller of a game. This time Gayle had more luck with the bat scoring 75 runs including 10 fours and 2 sixes before he was out caught behind by Carl Gazzard off Matt Bulbeck. The visitors eventually lost their final wicket on 370.

Somerset struggled with the bat scoring a limp 183 with Matt Wood the only home player to pass 50. Peter Trego, the only Somerset player from either game still playing today, scored an undefeated 12.

Gayle was again out to the same bowler when Bulbeck bowled him for just 17 as the West Indies youngsters declared on 266 for 7, setting Somerset a whopping 454 to win.

Trego led the Somerset charge with a brilliant 140 as Somerset tried to chase down the target. When Wes Durston was ninth man out for 55 and the score on 431 Graham Rose and Bulbeck were tasked with negotiating the final 23 runs and take Somerset to victory. With the match level and Somerset on 453 for 9 Gayle had Rose caught by Sulieman Benn and the game was tied.

Gayle also played against Somerset on foreign soil during the club’s amazing Champions League run in 2011. Playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore Gayle struck a mighty 86 (4 fours and 8 sixes) as his team (including Virat Kohli, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Daniel Vettori and future Somerset player Dirk Nannes) posted 206 in 20 overs.

In truth Somerset never got near losing by 51 runs despite Trego’s 58 and Craig Kieswetter’s 26. Gayle’s one over went for 24 runs.

Rumours from the various AGM’s held since the season end quote club officials saying that Chris Gayle will return to Somerset in 2016. I think every Somerset supporter will hope that to be the case and we would rather have him playing for us than against us.

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