CANBERRA - West Indies master blaster Chris Gayle silenced his critics with the highest ever score at a cricket World Cup, bludgeoning his way to 215 and a record 16 sixes before he was finally caught on the final ball of the innings yesterday.
It ended the laid-back West Indian's century drought, which stretched back to June 2013, as he guided the Windies to a total of 2-372 against Zimbabwe in the drizzle at Manuka Oval on Tuesday.
A target that was far too much for Zimbabwe, who were bowled out for 289 - losing by 73 runs on Duckworth-Lewis method after two overs were lost.
Gayle's innings started as a watchful one, but it turned into one of the most destructive displays of batting the one-day game has ever seen, shattering records along the way in the 147 balls he faced.
It was his highest ever one-day score, the highest World Cup score and he set a new World Cup record for sixes in an innings.
Early on he interspersed some careful nudges with the occasional whack straight down the ground.
His century took 105 balls and was a much different innings to the one he thrilled the Manuka crowd with in a Prime Minister's XI match in 2010 when he smashed 146 off just 89 balls.
But his second 100 was even more powerful.
He opened his shoulders and took just 33 balls to race to his double century, which is two balls slower than the fastest ODI century ever - set by South Africa captain AB de Villiers a month ago.
It came after West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron earned the ire of the West Indies Players Association when he retweeted a fan who called for Gayle to retire after failing against Pakistan on Saturday.
The WICB president deleted his retweet and apologised on Twitter, but his silence following Gayle's record score was just as damning.
But Cameron was just a few millimetres away from feeling some justification.
If Zimbabwe opening bowler Tinashe Panyanagara's first ball to Gayle was a fraction lower, the master blaster would have been out LBW for a golden duck in the first over.
Luckily for him, the umpire gave him not out as Hawkeye showed the ball just clipping the top of the stops, which gives a decision of umpire's call.
Gayle said he just needed a chance to get going.
"Come on, you're not serious, first ball, I can't be out first ball. No. I need a little chance, I get a break and I made best use of it," he said.
"There's been a lot of pressure, the runs haven't been coming. This is the first time in my career so many people wanting me to score runs.
"The messages keep coming in, Twitter, it's the first the time I've ever seen Chris Gayle wanting to perform so badly and I'm really glad I gave them something to cheer about."
West Indian great Brian Lara wants Cameron to continue retweeting to keep Gayle in form.
"I would encourage the president to do another one," he joked.
Marlon Samuels (133 not out off 156 balls) also chimed in with a century of his own and was part of the highest ever ODI partnership of 372, but it almost went unnoticed due to the Gayle blowing at the other end.
Sean Williams (76 off 61) and Craig Ervine (52 off 41) did their best to give Zimbabwe a chance of victory, but it wasn't enough - especially when man of the moment Gayle came on to bowl, taking 2-35 to go with his massive innings.
The West Indies will take plenty of confidence into their clash with South Africa at the SCG on Friday. Zimbabwe face Pakistan at the Gabba on Sunday. – SMH