By Matt Somerford | ecb.co.uk
Chris Gayle has built a career around making the implausible appear perfectly routine, but even he was surprised by his blistering start to life in the NatWest T20 Blast last weekend.
Just days after stepping off the plane from the Indian Premier League, Gayle introduced himself to the tournament with a typically brutal 92 from 59 balls in a first-up win over Essex Eagles last Friday.
Remarkably, he went even bigger two days later on his home debut against Kent Spitfires.
The 35-year-old Jamaican, after amusingly billing himself as the #WorldBoss in the build-up, fully delivered on his self-promotion as 15 sixes sailed out of Taunton.
Somerset fans were sent into raptures, and one of them even into the nearby River Tone to retrieve one of the maximums as a souvenir, as Gayle clubbed his way to an unbeaten 151 from 62 balls.
Gayle, of course, has previous for that type of heavy hitting – no player has more Twenty20 tons than he does – but he did not expect it to come so soon after arriving from the sub-continental conditions of India.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, he said: “These things don’t happen that often.
“Usually you need to get acclimatised to the weather before you can do those sort of performance.
“It’s fantastic to be amongst the runs. I know I had the capability to do these things – I’ve done it before.
“But to come in and do it in my first two games, in England as well, that is fantastic.”
When Gayle smacked his way to a then world-record double-century at the World Cup earlier this year he became the first player to have a Test triple-hundred, a Twenty20 century and a double-ton in the 50-over format to his name.
It is the sort of statistic that underlines Gayle’s enigmatic status – he is a player more prone to creating previously unthinkable records rather than breaking conventional marks.
“I just take in my stride to be honest with you,” he said.
“I don’t go out to do that. What comes on the day I’ll take for sure. I’m just loving it and I play as it comes. Hopefully I can get a score that puts the team in a position to win.”
It was then, with some irritation for Gayle, that his century against Kent was not enough to secure victory after Sam Northeast blazed 114 from 58 balls in a total of 227 for seven.
Gayle brought Somerset to within three runs of that score, but a failure to pull off the win is perhaps bad news for Hampshire when they visit Taunton tomorrow evening.
“I didn’t get the job fully done in the last game,” he said.
“I was happy to get a good part of the job done but I’m hungry to get more runs and I’m mentally ready for the battle on Friday.
“On Friday hopefully we can get the win and give the fans something more to cheer about.”
Gayle enjoyed a profitable IPL where he was the competition’s sixth-highest run-scorer, hitting 491 at 40.91, as his Royal Challengers Bangalore reached the semi-finals.
Gayle struck 38 sixes during the six-week tournament – 10 more than the next-best batsman – but already in three days of the Blast he has cleared the ropes 21 times.
He laughed off suggestions he might now have to try and break his mark of 15 sixes in one game, before crediting his opening partner and Somerset skipper Marcus Trescothick for helping him make an immediate impact.
“I was actually struggling in the first game and he was the one who was getting away the boundaries for us and that eased the pressure on me,” he said.
“It allowed me to get used to things and see what was what and then in the end it worked out well for me.
“I just picked up the baton from where he left off after the good start that he gave us.”
Gayle had plenty of praise for Northeast too and on first impressions believes the depth of English talent must be considerable if the 25-year-old’s clean hitting was any evidence of what is to come.
“He smashed it all over, that was really good,” said Gayle, who also had some positive words for England’s hopes of progressing their limited-overs ambitions ahead of the 2019 World Cup on these shores.
“There is superb talent in England all around. Maybe they just lack a bit of experience outside of England.
“If a couple of guys can get selected outside of England in other tournaments, the one-day cricket will be fantastic. They will always be superb in their home conditions.”
For now Gayle, who is hopeful he can return to Somerset should they reach finals day, is looking forward to enjoying English conditions himself having already taken a liking to Taunton.
“Yeah that is a great wicket for me. Hopefully there’s more to come,” said Gayle, who is enjoying the opportunity to relax between Friday night games.
“I’m loving it here in Somerset so far. I’ll try and just chill out and do my own thing in the week.
“I’m not doing too much, I might have a few drinks with the players, nothing big, just laze around.
“Then on match day I just do what I can, when I can.”
Cache version: http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=chris+gayle+somerset+ECB+Matt+Somerford&d=4802655516569620&mkt=en-GB&setlang=en-GB&w=q5qvfbnS8CaH_v-jVAvm7G4GVFn7fnT9
The original version is no longer available in its full format on-line following the revamp of the ECB website in October 2016.