CHRIS GAYLE produced a stunning, six-laden century as England’s World Twenty20 campaign began with a humbling defeat to the West Indies.
Now 36, Gayle remains the game’s most compelling performer when the mood takes him and he laid waste to England’s fragile bowling attack at the Wankhede Stadium, clubbing 11 sixes and five fours on his way to 100 not out in 48 balls.
Fully channelling his ‘world boss’ persona, Gayle made a walk in the park out of chasing England’s 182-6, leading his side over the line with six wickets and 11 balls remaining.
Remarkably, this was only Gayle’s second international hundred in the format, to go with 16 in domestic cricket, having scored his first in the inaugural World T20 nine years ago.
He is now the most prolific six-hitter in T20 internationals with 98, reclaiming the mantle from the retired Brendon McCullum.
For England, this was a familiar feeling.
They have now lost all four of their World T20 matches against the islanders and already face the possibility of a group stage exit.
Their batting had looked in reasonably good order, Yorkshire’s Joe Root compiling 48 in 36 balls, with strong support from Jos Buttler (30) and Eoin Morgan (27no), but their efforts were overshadowed by Gayle’s brilliance.
In dewy conditions, England simply could not compete and questions linger over the suitability of their bowling line-up.
David Willey, preferred here to Liam Plunkett, began the West Indies reply with an eventful over of left-arm swing.
As well as the wicket of Johnson Charles, well caught by Moeen Ali for a duck, there were also two wides and two loud lbw appeals against Marlon Samuels.
The latter dominated the strike for the rest of the powerplay, playing and missing twice more at Willey before reeling off a succession of boundaries.
But Gayle lingered ominously and made the most of the action he did see, clattering Topley and Jordan down the ground as the West Indies made 55-1 in the powerplay - six ahead of their opponents’ mark.
Adil Rashid’s leg spin is England’s best weapon in this tournament and he needed just four balls to see off Samuels, who picked out long-on with 37 to his name.
But Gayle is another matter. Having sized up the threat he launched Rashid for two enormous straight sixes in as many balls in the ninth over.
A single off the next took the chase down into double figures.
The 11th over cost 18 as Ben Stokes twice dropped short to Gayle and twice paid the full price.
Denesh Ramdin and Dwayne Bravo came and went but this was now a solo performance.
Moeen was the next victim, his four-over stint ended ignominiously as Gayle hoisted three identikit sixes over long-on.
With five overs to go, the West Indies needed just 32. Gayle took 18 of them off Willey’s next visit, clearing the ropes twice more.
The only question was whether Gayle would reach three figures and although he did, there was some surprise that it came with a rare single.
His work was complete and he left it to Andre Russell to stroke the winning run off Reece Topley.
Earlier, having been asked to bat first, Jason Roy and Alex Hales managed just five from the first two overs.
They eased England’s nerves with 29 off the next couple as Hales took a particular liking to Samuel Badree’s leg spin.
Russell - complete with orange mohican hair - claimed the first wicket when Roy dragged a simple catch to mid-wicket but Root was soon settling in.
A Russell bouncer reared towards his helmet only to be swatted for six over fine leg, and smart running helped England to 81-1 at the mid-point. Moments later, Root added a pick-up six off Jerome Taylor.
The second-wicket pair added 55 in 40 balls before Hales (28) was bowled by Sulieman Benn.
Buttler launched Badree for six but Root fell two short of a third half-century in the format when he miscued Russell to mid-off.
Morgan replaced him and promptly hammered his second delivery, short from Russell, halfway up the Sachin Tendulkar Stand.
With four overs to go, the scoreboard read 128-3 and England added another 54 for the loss of three batsmen,
Buttler struck two mighty sixes before turning Dwayne Bravo to long leg, Stokes made 15 in just seven balls and Moeen Ali hit a first-ball six. Morgan remained unbeaten at the end.