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Gayle ‘good to go’ as WI seek revival of fortunes

Updated September 24, 2017

BRISTOL: Chris Gayle is “good to go” for Sunday’s third One-day International against England, according to West Indies captain Jason Holder.

The star batsman suffered a twinge in his right hamstring while warming-up shortly before the toss in Thursday’s second ODI in Nottingham -- his 38th birthday.

It turned out to be a good match to miss, with only 2.2 overs bowled before rain led to a no-result washout that left England 1-0 up in this five-match series.

But the big-hitting Jamaica left-handed opener is now set to be available as West Indies look to draw level in Bristol this weekend.

“I think Chris is good to go...I think the last game was more precautionary than anything else. He seems to be raring to go,” Holder told reporters before West Indies’ training session at the County Ground on Saturday.

“It’s good to have him back. We hope we can have him for the duration of the series.”

Gayle has scored over 9,000 runs in 265 ODI innings, including 22 hundreds, at an average of more than 37 and with a strike-rate in excess of 85.

He only arrived in England for the white-ball leg of West Indies’ tour, having effectively made himself ineligible for the preceding 2-1 Test series loss by not not taking part in domestic first-class cricket in the Caribbean.

Gayle gave glimpses of his renowned boundary-hitting ability with a quickfire 40 in West Indies’ win in the lone Twenty20 at Chester-le-Street last Saturday -- a repeat of their 2016 World Twenty20 final win over England in Kolkata -- before following that up with a rapid 37 during a seven-wicket defeat in the first ODI at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

The match in Manchester was Gayle’s first ODI since the the 2015 World Cup following his protracted contractual dispute with West Indies cricket chiefs.

“He definitely brings a lot to the team, a wealth of experience, and his record speaks for itself,” added Holder.

England new-ball bowler David Willey is well aware of the threat posed by the ‘Universe Boss’, saying: “We’ve seen what Gayle can do, and he’s done it time and time again.

“If it’s his day, and he gets hold of it, the way he hits it it’s going to clear the ropes.

“So you do want to get him early, and we’ve looked at footage and we’ve got a rough idea where we want to bowl to him,” the Yorkshire left-arm paceman added.

But while Gayle is set to bolster West Indies; batting, the tourists do have a doubt over the fitness of bowler Kesrick Williams.

Although West Indies were only on the field for 11 minutes at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge, that was long enough for the 27-year-old paceman to suffer a back spasm.

“We started to bowl last time, and then he was unable to take the field,” said Holder. “I think he should be all right going into the game, but we’re still not entirely sure.”

At 1-0 down with three to play, West Indies know another defeat will scupper their hopes of coming out on top in this campaign “There’s definitely still an opportunity to win this series,” Barbados all-rounder Holder said. “We head into these last three games with full confidence.”

Meanwhile, West Indies coach Stuart Law is looking to the remainder of the ODI series against England to help him build a settled team ahead of next year’s World Cup qualifying tournament.

Defeat in the first ODI at Old Trafford on Tuesday ended West Indies’ hopes of gaining direct entry to the 2019 World Cup in Britain.

Instead the two-time champions will now have to come through a qualifying tournament, set to take place in Zimbabwe early next year, if they are to secure a spot in the business end of the showpiece 50-over event.

Following a washed-out second ODI at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge on Thursday, Law’s men only have three more matches in England -- starting with Sunday’s fixture in Bristol — and a three-match ODI series in New Zealand scheduled before the qualifiers.

“Our plan is to go to Zimbabwe next year with a settled team, a team where everyone knows their roles and what they want to achieve,” Law told reporters at Trent Bridge.

“It’s a balancing act. I’d like to go to New Zealand with a team which is pretty settled before the qualifiers,” the former Australia batsman added.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017