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GROS-ISLET, St. Lucia – To a cacophony of noise, Chris Gayle made his final One-day International appearance in the Caribbean an occasion to remember.

The World-acclaimed “Universe Boss” indulged himself in a spectacular, pyrotechnic display with the bat to follow up a destructive, career-best spell from compatriot Oshane Thomas that mowed down England and set WINDIES up for a seven-wicket victory in the fifth and final ODI of the Colonial Medical Insurance Series on Saturday here.

To the delight of a weekend crowd that half-filled the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gayle launched into a merciless attack (more suited to the Twenty20 International coming up in three days’ time at this venue) on the England new-ball pair of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood, as the hosts successfully chased down a modest target of 114 to earn a 2-2, series-levelling win.

Gayle collected five fours and smashed nine sixes in 77 off just 27 balls, scoring the fastest 50 ever by a WINDIES batsman in an ODI and second fastest ever against England, making him a shoo-in for the Player-of-the-Series award, as he finished the series with 424 runs – including 20 fours and an amazing 39 sixes – at an average of 106.

“It’s been a fantastic series – to be able to tie it 2-all is great,” said Gayle. “The bowlers deserve credit. Chasing a small target, you can be wary, but I wanted to put them on the back foot early. We will get some respect as a unit after this, going into the World Cup. We’re very capable of winning games in England and beating any particular team out there.”

Shimron Hetmyer formalised the win for the WINDIES in the 13th over, when he drove Tom Curran’s first delivery to the long-off boundary for his second four, as the home team had to make token use of extra time to complete victory before the interval for meals.

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The series result will be a huge boost of confidence for the WINDIES ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 later this year in England and Wales and leave the No.1-ranked visitors nursing their reputation and plenty to consider.

“That was the perfect performance,” said WINDIES captain Jason Holder. “All of the bowlers put in an outstanding effort. Oshane is an impact player for us and it’s good to see him make this breakthrough. He was quick, aggressive and consistent, and he caused trouble. It’s been a total team effort with the ball and then Chris stole the show at the end. 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. We need to be more consistent now and string together more wins and win some series," finished the Skipper.

Gayle made his intentions clear from the first over of the chase, when he collected two fours and a six – all cross-batted strokes off Woakes – before he got into top gear with another series three more sixes and a four off the same bowler in the third over.

He appeared to have been caught at deep fine leg, on 31, from a top-edged hook at the same bowler during the same over, but a review of the dismissal revealed that it was a head-high bouncer from Woakes and TV umpire Bruce Oxenford of Australia ruled it was a no-ball.

Compatriot and fellow opener John Campbell was a spectator for most of those first three overs before he was bowled playing across a well-pitched delivery from Wood in the fourth over to leave the WINDIES 40 for one.

Gayle got stuck into Wood in the fast bowler’s third over, when he twice dispatched him into the crowd for sixes before he tapped a delivery into cover for a single to bring up his 50 from a whirlwind 19 balls.

He made Wood look ordinary, when he dispatched him for three more sixes – two hit over the off-side and the third, a crunching pull over mid-wicket – and a pair of fours in the England tearaway’s next over which ended with his dismissal, bowled swinging at a well-pitched delivery in the eighth over.

Proceedings returned to normal and Hetmyer, not out on 11, and fellow left-hander Darren Bravo, not out on seven, ushered the WINDIES over the threshold to the delight of the crowd which raised the team’s anthem in praise of their performance.

Earlier, Thomas grabbed 5-21 from 5.1 overs, as England, put in to bat on a helpful pitch, were bowled out for 113 in 28.1 overs – their lowest total ever in an ODI against the WINDIES.

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WINDIES bowled with discipline from early and the England batting never came to grips with the bounce and movement the home team’s attack were able to extract from the surface.

The signs were there when Sheldon Cottrell bowled Jonny Bairstow for 11 in the third over and Joe Root was caught at third man from an upper cutoff the first ball of the next over from WINDIES captain Jason Holder to leave England 18 for two.

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The WINDIES were put on the back-foot, when opener Alex Hales put on 39 for the third wicket with his captain Eoin Morgan, as England appeared to find stability.

Carlos Brathwaite, whose 2-17 from eight overs were the most economical, had Hales caught behind in the 11th over for 23, Thomas had Morgan caught at long leg from a top-edged hook for 18 before Brathwaite had Ben Stokes caught behind from a top-edged hook at a sharply rising delivery to leave England 88 for five in the 19th over.

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The WINDIES bowlers were kept at bay for a brief period, as Jos Buttler, England’s batting hero in the previous ODI, made 23 and left-hander Moeen Ali inched them past 100 before Holder brought Thomas back for a second spell from the northern end of the ground and wrecked the rest of the batting, as the tourists lost their last five wickets for 25 in the space of 21 deliveries.

“We believed from the start that we could be competitive with England and that we could actually win this series,” said interim WINDIES head coach Richard Pybus. We were excellent in the Test matches and it’s wonderful to see the way we played in this match to come back after the defeat in Grenada. Great overall team performance, but a special day for Oshane, as he took his first five-wicket haul. Chris is, well Chris, and great to see him in top form again,” he finished.


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