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Cricket news - Echoes of the past in Gayle's final ODI in Caribbean

"This is my last ODI series in the Caribbean. So I was giving the fans a nice wave. Right through the tournament" - Gayle

After the fourth West Indies-England ODI, a peculiar online discussion emerged about high-scoring games. The crux of the debate centred around satisfaction. Can you really enjoy a high-scoring match so littered with sixes?

There were a lot of sixes to be fair - 46 to be exact. That method of scoring, once an oddity to cherish, is now just a frequent, accepted part of daily life, like oat milk. And while that is no bad thing - oat milk is delicious by the way - the wider points had some merit. Bowlers are getting hammered on a regular basis and sometimes all these hoys into the stands, each accompanied by some untamed noise from the sound systems, can feel a little "death by chocolate".

But it seemed of the majority who had deemed this particular ODI "a bad thing" had not actually watched it all the way through. Because there is surely no way they wouldn't have been gripped by England's tactical approach to reaching 418 and then the dramatic chase that followed. A chase that looked like coming good, derailed in the penultimate over with four wickets in five balls, as West Indies fell short by just 29 runs.

A penny for their thoughts, then, as England threw away a series win with a six-less (and witless) display in the final ODI. A mildly promising start made way for an all too familiar collapse: West Indies stuck in the hosts and then fired them out in the space of 29 overs for 113. Low-scoring classics are grand and all, but the only thing classic about this effort was that it commands wall space in the exhibition of great English collapses. As a spectacle, this was done - until Chris Gayle decided it wasn't.

In what he later confirmed would be his final ODI in the Caribbean, Gayle gave the region, Saint Lucia and West Indies home fans, something to remember him by. As astonishing half-century, clocking in at 19 balls and thus the fastest in the format by any West Indian, slapped England's bowlers silly as victory was sealed in just 12.1 overs. Gayle knocked off 77 of the 114 target in just 26 balls before being bowled by Mark Wood. Even that seemed perfectly to plan, allowing the left-hander a more personal standing ovation. Nine sixes, by the way.

It wasn't the first time Gayle has lit up the international stage, but it will be one of the last. As a man, he has polarised opinion but, as a cricketer, he has been a trailblazer. For the last two weeks we were reminded of what the game will be missing when he departs, with 424 runs, two hundreds and this series-salvaging knock earning him the man of the series award. And 39 sixes.

"Chris stole the show at the end," beamed his captain, Jason Holder. "Chris is a champion. It's great to see him bow out in the Caribbean like this. We're building something nicely as a group."

A career obituary is probably premature. Gayle is playing the World Cup and likely to feature in next year's Twenty20 edition while continuing to fulfill franchise commitments. But there was an air of permanency to Saturday's match that was echoed in the 39-year-old's sentiments.

"It's been an honour to wear the crest and entertain the people around the Caribbean," said Gayle. "West Indies is No. 1. This is the best achievement you can have in the Caribbean as a cricketer. This is the best thing, to be honest with you."

"This is my last ODI series in the Caribbean," he said. "So I was giving the fans a nice wave. Right through the tournament, they have been superb from both sides: West Indies and England sides. It would be nice if it was in Jamaica, but the crowds have been fantastic."

It was telling, too, that Gayle appreciated what the last two weeks have given him - form. T20 competitions are now his bread and butter but his recent turn in the Bangladesh Premier League was far below what is expected of him: an average of 18.45 across 12 innings.

"I wasn't getting any runs in the T20 tournaments I was playing. When you get a chance to score runs, make sure you score heavy. But it's the best [I've played] in my home conditions and I'm happy and grateful for that.

"I'm not surprised by how well I've done. Or the number of sixes. Sixes come along. It's just natural, to be honest. In T20s I score a lot of sixes as well, but this is the first time in an ODI series. To hit 39 sixes aged 39: it's fantastic from a personal point of view."

A draw may mean an 18th series without a win for West Indies, but it did at least end a run of 17 consecutive defeats. In the process, showed they are more than a match for the number one ODI side. They are more than capable of bloodying a few noses at the World Cup and, perhaps, with another talismanic performance, Gayle can give West Indies one more show-stopping few weeks.

For a cricketer maligned for chasing the T20 dollar, he has imbued confidence in a group who started the year in complete disarray. Now they are being talked of dark horses. All thanks to Gayle.

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