Gayle relieved as Windies avoid historic whitewash

Published: Monday, April 7, 2008, 17:45 [IST]
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When Devon Smith drove Muttiah Muralitharan through cover for four to formalise a six-wicket victory for West Indies in the second and final Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday, Chris Gayle was a relieved man.

The West Indies captain was delighted, after his side avoided a historic Test series whitewash for the first time in the Caribbean.

West Indies rebounded from a 121-run defeat in the opening Test at the Guyana National Stadium to level the two-Test series 1-1.

"I am very relieved because I know you guys would have pressured me even more," said Gayle.

"It has taken a bit off my shoulders. I have to give credit to the guys for the way they handled themselves. Having lost the first Test match, we really came back strong.

"It was something that we spoke about. It was a must-win for us and to square the series is tremendous."

Ramnaresh Sarwan hit 102 and Shivnarine Chanderpaul an unbeaten 86, as West Indies, chasing 253 for victory, reached their target a little over an hour after tea on the fourth day.

"It was tremendous. They are two experienced guys and I am happy to see these two guys among the runs," Gayle said.

"Sars has been in terrific form, getting two half-centuries in the first Test. He got another half-century in the first innings. We spoke about these things - getting three starts and needing to capitalise. He capitalised at the right time.

"Shiv is a very experienced player. We know how tremendous he is. He had not been getting among the runs. To step up at this point in time, you have to give credit to him.

"Whenever you have your best team, you are always going to be competitive and give your opponents a better fight."

What gave Gayle the most pleasure however, was the way the team came together behind a common goal, and highlighted the work of the bowlers, as well as crucial knocks in the first innings from Test newcomer Sewnarine Chattergoon and left-hander Devon Smith.

"Before the game, we spoke about how important this game was," he said. "All the guys were asked for a bit of extra effort and to just dig a bit deeper.

"The guys came along to the party. It was a good all-round performance as a team. It is something we have to continue and work as a unit."

The victory also meant West Indies ended a losing streak of seven consecutive Test series, but Gayle - in his first home Test series as captain - was not prepared to indicate if his side was beginning to turn the corner yet.

West Indies also host double-crown World champions Australia for a series of three Tests and five ODIs between May 12 and July 7 - a much stiffer challenge - and so Gayle wanted to keep the win over Sri Lanka in perspective.

"We just need to keep things in focus at this point in time," he said. "It is good to get these kinds of victories against top teams.

"We got one against South Africa recently which we did not capitalise on because injuries meant we were missing key players, but this time we lost the first Test match, and it goes to show that with the right kind of planning we can get more victories."

Gayle observed that many of the players are still young in age, but they have played plenty cricket, and maybe are now beginning to mature.

"We are getting the experience, and we have a few new members joining the team now, so it is very important for us to win to get the mental part right because if we can master it then things will get better from here," he said.

"But this is just a start. If we can get the support we need off the field, and things can get better for the players, and we continue to work as a unit, we can enjoy many more days like this.

"The communication between the players is very good, and we are really rallying around each other. We are pointing out to each other areas which we need to work on, but the guys have been enjoying their cricket more which is good to see, and once you are enjoying the game, you should be able to get better results."

West Indies and Sri Lanka now contest a three-match One-day International series, starting on Thursday at Queen's Park Oval which also hosts the second match on Saturday.

The ODI series ends on April 15 with a day/night fixture at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia.

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