Triple century for Gayle as records tumble in Antigua

South Africa 588-6 dec - West Indies 565-5
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The Independent Online

A poster beneath one of the scoreboards proclaims the Antigua Recreation Ground as "the home of Test cricket's major batting records" and, while the West Indian responsible for its two most famous landmarks could only muster a scratchy four this time, another carried on the tradition on the fourth day of the fourth and final Test yesterday.

A poster beneath one of the scoreboards proclaims the Antigua Recreation Ground as "the home of Test cricket's major batting records" and, while the West Indian responsible for its two most famous landmarks could only muster a scratchy four this time, another carried on the tradition on the fourth day of the fourth and final Test yesterday.

Chris Gayle, the tall, 25-year-old left-handed opener from Kingston whose four previous innings in the series had yielded 12 runs, advanced from his overnight 184 to 317, the third triple-century in the 20 Tests on the modest little ground on the edge of the capital town, St John's.

It followed Brian Lara's 375 in 1994, which eclipsed Garry Sobers' previous Test high, and his unbeaten 400 last year that reclaimed the mark from Australia's Matthew Hayden.

Only Leeds has witnessed as many triple-centuries, two of them by the phenomenal Australian Don Bradman, the other by England's John Edrich.

Lara failed, caught at the wicket off the lively Monde Zondeki after 29 deliveries, ironically on his 36th birthday, but Gayle, then 218, was intent on not wasting his chance on the friendliest batting pitch in international cricket.

He arrived at Test cricket's 20th score of 300 ­ and the fifth by a West Indian ­ in the last over before tea, exactly 10 hours after he set out, but fell for 317 half and hour into the last session, edging a cut off Zondeki which was caught by Graeme Smith at first slip.

He shared partnerships of 331 with his overnight partner, Ramnaresh Sarwan, the highest for the second wicket by any country against South Africa, and 149 with his captain, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Sarwan's 127 was one of the six three-figures innings in the match and Chanderpaul was 18 away from another at the close when the West Indies were 565 for 5, replying to South Africa's 588 for 6 declared, and a draw is the inevitable outcome.

Known more for his aggression and power than for his patience, Gayle blazed to his first 50 on the previous day off 34 balls and his 100 off 96 but, as he gradually appreciated the typically benign nature of a pitch on which four South Africans scored hundreds, his approach became more measured.

Afterwards, he paid tribute to the help he has received from another even more illustrious West Indian, Sir Garry Sobers, who was appointed technical consultant to the team last November.

His epic, his seventh three-figure innings in 50 Tests, lasted 483 balls with three sixes, all before he was 100, and 37 fours as his main scoring shots.

The 22-year-old Zondeki, who had taken a pasting from Gayle and Sarwan on the previous day, was rewarded for effort and enthusiasm with all three wickets on the day. He removed Sarwan to a low catch at cover an hour into play before accounting for Lara and Gayle.

Smith, the South African captain, claimed Narsingh Deonarine before the close but it was a wicket unlikely to have any bearing on the result.

¿ The fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has been left out of Pakistan's squad to tour the West Indies. He has not played international cricket since returning home from Australia in January with a hamstring problem. A Pakistan spokesman said: "Even though Shoaib he has made a recovery from his hamstring injury, he needs more time to get back to match fitness."

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