The West Indies have clinched their T20 International series against Australia, racing to an unassailable 3-0 lead with a dominant six-wicket win in St Lucia on Monday.

Chris Gayle produced his best knock since his return to the international side, with 67 from 38 balls as the West Indies cruised in the chase, winning with 31 balls to spare.

Stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran (32* from 27 balls) finished the job with back-to-back boundaries off Riley Meredith (48-3) to seal the series victory with two games to play.

Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to bat first this time, with his batsmen failing to capitalise on several starts, only managing 141-6.

Moises Henriques top scored with 33, hitting Australia's only two sixes, with Hayden Walsh restricting them with 18-2 from four overs.

The improved Mitchell Starc (18-1 from four) dismissed Andre Fletcher early, bringing Gayle to the crease and the 41-year-old was at his best.

Gayle hit several lusty blows, including seven sixes and four fours in his knock, before edging to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Meredith.

RETURN TO FORM FOR GAYLE?

Gayle has made it clear that his return to the West Indies, after two years away, has been inspired by competing at the T20 World Cup later this year.

Despite strong Indian Premier League form, he has struggled upon his return to the international arena, managing only 102 runs in nine innings.

The veteran left-hander made his first T20 International half-century since 2016 with his knock at first drop on Monday.

"From a personal point of view, you all knew I was struggling with the bat, but to be get some runs today it's very pleasing," Gayle said. "I want to dedicate these runs to my teammates, especially Kieron Pollard. He gave me the pep talk I needed."

Gayle made 288 runs in seven innings at an average of 41.14 in the 2020 IPL, before scoring 178 runs in eight knocks in the 2021 edition.

"Looking back, when I got back into the West Indies team against Sri Lanka, I was trying to play a different role, than play Chris Gayle himself," Gayle said. "I didn’t get the runs but the guys rallied around me. It's coming on, my main focus is the World Cup."

AUSSIES T20I WOES CONTINUE

Australia continue to struggle in the shortest format, having been comfortably beaten in all three matches in the series.

Finch, who made 30 from 31 deliveries at the top of the order, felt there was a clear theme to address among the losses.

"Same as the other games, we haven’t had the top order go on deep into the innings," Finch said. "It's been quite similar the whole way through. Credit to the West Indies, they bowled beautifully, especially at the back end."

Australia have only managed scores of 127, 140 and 141-6 in the three T20Is this series, bowled out on both occasions when they have chased.

"We would’ve liked more runs, no doubt," Finch added. "That comes down to the top order not going through. If one of your top four is there through the end you put pressure on the bowlers."

Evin Lewis smashed 71 off 35 balls as West Indies cruised to an eight-wicket win over South Africa in the first Twenty20 international in Grenada on Saturday.

Rassie van der Dussen (56 not out) and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock (37) helped the Proteas post a modest 160-6 as Fabian Allen (2-18) finished the pick of the West Indies bowlers.

A blistering assault from Lewis laid the foundations for the win as he and opening partner Andre Fletcher (30) put on 85 for the first wicket in seven overs.

Tabraiz Shamsi (1-27) claimed the wicket of Lewis, but Chris Gayle (32 not out) and skipper Andre Russell (23 not out) saw West Indies home with 30 balls to spare.

South Africa thrashed West Indies in their recent two-Test series, but these five T20 matches look set to go the other way based on this one-sided game.

West Indies, the reigning T20 world champions, won the toss and elected to bowl first at the National Stadium in St George's and kept South Africa's batsmen in check.

Left-arm spinner Allen bowled particularly impressively as he accounted for the wickets of Reeza Hendricks (17) and skipper Temba Bavuma (22) before veteran Dwayne Bravo (2-30) closed out the innings.

South Africa's attack were no match for the brutal hitting of the West Indies batsmen with Lewis, who shrugged off a blow to the midriff, reaching his half-century off 22 balls.

Lewis had whacked seven sixes and four fours by the time he sliced Shamsi's left-arm wrist spin into the hands of David Miller at long-off, but Gayle and Russell continued to pepper the boundary in a convincing win.

 

Lewis gives flashes of batting guru

With West Indies team-mate Gayle as his batting mentor, it should be no surprise the left-handed Lewis deals in maximums, and this innings was reminiscent of the six-machine at his pomp.

Too short from Ngidi

South Africa paceman Lungi Ngidi bowled with aggression but should have used his head. He bowled way too much short stuff, was promptly dispatched to the stands, and finished with 0-46 from three overs.

Delhi Capitals piled on the pain for Punjab Kings and KL Rahul by racing to a seven-wicket victory in the Indian Premier League and going top of the table.

It was revealed earlier on Sunday that Kings captain and star batsman Rahul faces surgery after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis, and he was in hospital while this match played out at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.

In his absence, stand-in skipper Mayank Agarwal made a dominant 99 not out in a total of 166-6, helming the Kings innings and cutting loose when he saw fit in a terrific 58-ball knock that contained four sixes and eight fours.

Shikhar Dhawan produced the key innings for the Capitals in response, making an unbeaten 69 and finding the sort of support that Agarwal lacked, helping Delhi to 167-3, winning with 14 balls to spare.

Agarwal had required five from the final ball of the Kings innings to post what would have been just the second IPL century of his career, but he could only crunch a four down the ground rather than clear the ropes.

Kagiso Rabada had earlier taken two wickets in his first two overs, the second coming when he bowled Kings veteran Chris Gayle with a full toss immediately after being cracked for six by the West Indies batsman.

That was the first of three sixes off Rabada's bowling, but the South African paceman also removed Prabhsimran Singh and Chris Jordan while taking 3-36 in his four-over allocation.

Dawid Malan made 26 but it was ostensibly a one-man show as Agarwal contended with a revolving cast of batting partners.

Delhi had more about them, with Prithvi Shaw making 39 in a 63-run first-wicket stand alongside Dhawan, before Steve Smith added 25.

Shimron Hetmyer launched Riley Meredith for two consecutive sixes followed by a cover drive for four in the 18th over, leaving Delhi just two short of their victory target.

Neither Hetmyer nor Dhawan had the privilege of finishing the job, however, with a pair of wides from Meredith carrying the Capitals over the line.


Agarwal deserved better

Not only did he take over as captain, Agarwal also led by proud example, just as Rahul as so often done. His innings was the standout performance of this match, but where he rose to the occasion, others in the Kings ranks wilted. Gayle, with 13, was the team's third highest scorer, and it is almost impossible to win matches that way.

Getting all Het up

Hetmyer's late care-free cameo of 16 from four deliveries would likely not have happened without his team-mates laying solid foundations. They did so in the face of largely unthreatening bowling from Punjab, who sit sixth with three wins from eight games, amid doubts over whether their leader will be back in action this season.

KL Rahul scored another magnificent half-century and Harpreet Brar tormented Royal Challengers Bangalore in a 34-run Indian Premier League win for Punjab Kings.

Captain Rahul replaced Shikhar Dhawan as the leading run-scorer in the tournament with a scintillating 91 off 57 balls, getting Kings up to 179-5 after Virat Kohli put them in.

Chris Gayle also smashed a rapid 46 from 24 balls before Rahul and Harpreet provided a late flurry at Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday.

RCB fell well short in reply with the Kings attack giving nothing away, Kohli top scoring with 35 as they could only muster 145-8 in Ahmedabad.

They never got going in the run chase and lost six wickets for 34 runs, with spinner Harpreet sparking the collapse by bowling Kohli before cleaning up Glenn Maxwell for a golden duck off the next ball in a double-wicket maiden.

Harpreet claimed outstanding figures of 3-19, while fellow tweaker Ravi Bishnoi finished with a brilliant 2-17 in a resounding victory.

Harshal Patel (31) and Kyle Jamieson (16 not out) combined for an eighth-wicket stand of 48, but the damage had been done as Kings moved up to fifth, consigning third-placed RCB to only a second defeat.

 

RCB have no answer to Rahul

Punjab skipper Rahul must wish he could play against RCB more often, as they have not managed to get him out since 2019.

The India batsman was imperious once again, bringing up his fourth half-century of the tournament off 35 balls after Gayle had taken 20 off a Jamieson over and struck Yuzvendra Chahal for two sixes in the next before gloving a Daniel Sams delivery behind.

Harshal, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, went for 53 runs off his four wicket-less overs - the last of the innings costing 22 as Rahul and Harpreet (25 not out from 17) cut loose.

 

Harp calls the tune

Riley Meredith struck an early blow by removing Devdutt Padikkal's off stump before the Kings spinners came to the fore.

RCB were struggling on 36-1 at the end of the powerplay and were well behind the run rate when Kohli came down the track to Harpreet but lost his off stump.

Harpreet was on a hat-trick after bamboozling Maxwell with a peach of a delivery that clicked his off stump. It was pretty much game over when the same bowler had AB de Villiers caught at extra cover by Rahul, with Rajat Patidar soon following for 31.

KL Rahul and Chris Gayle powered Punjab Kings to a much-needed victory as they ended a three-game losing streak in the Indian Premier League in emphatic fashion against Mumbai Indians.

On the receiving end of significant margins in each of their previous defeats, the Kings turned the tables in style to surge to a nine-wicket triumph through a superb performance with bat and ball.

Despite a fine 63 from Rohit Sharma, Mumbai could only manage 131-6 as Mohammed Shami and young leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi kept them in check.

Captain Rahul and Gayle then made short work of the target of 132, with Kings losing only one wicket in the process and reaching the finishing line with 14 balls to spare.

Rahul hit three fours and as many sixes in an unbeaten 60, while Gayle struck 43 off 35 balls as their partnership of 79 inspired the Kings.

Having already produced scores of 91 and 61 in this season's competition, Rahul laid the platform for a routine chase with a first-wicket stand of 53 with Mayank Agarwal.

Agarwal lofted Rahul Chahar to long-on as he was dismissed for 25, but the arrival of Gayle only served to help the Kings hit the accelerator.

His and Rahul's stand ensured there was never any doubt of them chasing a modest total, Mumbai having failed to offer Rohit sufficient support during their innings.

Rohit helped Mumbai to recover from 26-2 to 105-2 as he and Suryakumar Yadav (33 off 27) steadied the ship.

However, Suryakumar top-edged Bishnoi to Gayle at short third man to start the 16th over and Rohit soon followed in being dismissed when he fired a low full toss from Shami straight to deep square.

Kieron Pollard (16 not out off 12) provided an efficient cameo, but both Hardik (1) and Krunal Pandya (3) failed to get going as Mumbai limped to the finish to give the Kings a straightforward task.

"I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket."

Christian Vieri is regarded as one of the greatest strikers to have played football.

Once the most expensive player in the world, the former Italy international won titles with Juventus, Inter, Lazio and Torino, while he claimed numerous individual honours – the Pichichi Trophy and Serie A Footballer of the Year to go with his FIFA 100 selection and other awards.

But it could have been a lot different for the cricket-mad 47-year-old after growing up in Australia – a far cry from his birthplace in Bologna.

"My whole family is a soccer-team family," Vieri, who also played for Milan, recalled to Stats Perform News. "My father played, I played, my grandfather, my brother. So when my father at the end of his career in Bologna, they asked him if he wanted to go play in Sydney with Marconi. He said yes and the whole family moved there. He played for some time and coached there. We all went with him. 

"I think I was about four years old and I stayed 10 years there, till about 14. I grew up there. It was good. Growing up with the kids, for me it wasn't strange. Now, if you tell people, it's a bit strange that I grew up in Australia but when I was there it was normal – going to school, playing soccer, playing cricket, playing different sports. I was a big fan of cricket. Even if we were 13-14, we would go watch Australia play Test matches, ODI matches in Sydney. I'm a very big, big cricket fan."

"I just love playing," Vieri said. "I was probably playing more cricket than soccer at school. You know what we would do? The tennis ball, we would tape it up to make it go faster and swing. I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket. I was an all-rounder. I was really good. 

"You know what happened now? Two months ago before the second coronavirus wave, I spoke to someone from the cricket association, I'm going to start playing in March, April. It's a small thing in Italy, in Milan there is a cricket team. I spoke with the Italian cricket captain. They said listen, when you want to play with us, just come. I said listen, one thing is playing with a tennis ball when you're 14, one thing is playing with professionals. I want to come three or four days, train with you guys and see how it is. 

"I just love the game. I watch all the West Indies' games – Viv Richard, Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, all those guys. I would watch Australia but in those days, the Windies were too strong for everyone. I'm on YouTube a lot watching cricket. My wife always says 'what are you watching? what is this?', three hours a day watching games from 1984 and 1986, and she is going 'what is wrong with you, why aren't you normal?' I say to her, 'listen, I grew up there, these are the days I was there following cricket'. She takes the p*** out of me. Pakistan had Imran Khan, I know the players. England had Ian Botham. It was fun. 

"I love the game. Couple of months when it gets a bit warmer and we can start to go out a bit easier, I would like to go training with the Italian team, see how fast the ball really comes at you, with your pads and everything. I think it would be a good experience."

So, as Vieri prepares to dust off his pads and helmet in Italy, who would he compare to in the current era of cricket?

"I think Chris Gayle from West Indies. I'm a left-hander," he added. "When I used to play, I'm not a Test match guy, I want to smash the ball outside the stadium. I think I would've been good."

And if Vieri remained down under in Australia, rather than returning to Italy at the age of 14, would he have opted for cricket over a football career?

"Cricket, soccer or tennis," Vieri, who retired in 2009, responded. "I play paddle, I play tennis for 30 years. I like tennis too because it's an individual game – it only depends on you."

Vieri went on to make 49 appearances for his beloved Italy, scoring 23 goals (ninth on the all-time list) following an international career spanning eight years between 1997 and 2005.

He made two trips to the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 – his nine goals across the two major tournaments a joint national record alongside Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio, while he also featured at Euro 2004.

While Vieri joined forces with the likes of past greats Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo for the Azzurri, his younger brother Max followed a different path.

Max Vieri, who was part of Juve's youth team before going on to play for Napoli in a notable spell, opted to represent Australia.

A midfielder, Max earned six caps for the Socceroos, but Christian Vieri never considered wearing the green and gold.

"I had two dreams when I was in Sydney playing and I was only 12, 13, 14, so you're going to school playing soccer. That's why I left Australia when I was 14 – my two dreams were to play in Serie A and for the national team – the blue jersey," said Vieri. "I remember in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup – Paolo Rossi and all those big players – I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to become an Italian player. When I was 14, I started breaking my dad's head about going to play soccer in Italy.

"When I started playing for Marconi, I started left full-back and then after I while, I said to the coach 'put me up front' and that's it, I was scoring goals and that's how everything started. My brother wanted to play for Australia always and I just had my dream to play the World Cups with Italy."

"I think the Australian team has done well in the last 10-15 years World Cup-wise and qualifications," he added. "They've done good. Of course when I was there – the big sports were AFL, rugby league, cricket – football wasn't the main sport but I think it's getting bigger. The evolution of football around world is just so big now, so much money behind it. When I was there, we were playing soccer and it wasn't the main sport but the passion we have and the kids have, it was bigger than the other sports."

Vieri's choice to chase his dream in Italy proved a wise decision, winning the Scudetto with Juve in 1997 before joining Atletico Madrid after just one season in Turin.

An incredible return of 24 goals in as many LaLiga matches for Atletico, and 29 from 32 appearances across all competitions in 1997-98, led to head coach Radomir Antic famously saying: "Vieri dead is better than any other attacker alive".

"We had a good relationship. I won the goalscoring award. I was a bit crazy those days. I would go out a lot. He would always say don't go out too much, train," Vieri recalled. "He knew I wanted to go back to Italy after about seven, eight months. He said, 'where are you going? you are going to stay here, LaLiga is your competition. You stay here and you just train a little bit, you score 50 goals a year with a cigarette'. I said yeah but I wanna go back home. 

"I think it was the best experience in my life playing in the Spanish league. It's the best quality league. There is so much technique and the way all the teams play, they all play to win. A lot of ball possession. Those days, you had to be really good to play. I had an amazing season."

Like his time at Juve, Vieri's spell with Atletico was brief as he returned to Italy via Lazio in a €25million deal the following season.

After 14 goals in 28 appearances and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph in the Italian capital, Vieri became the most expensive player in the world when he reunited with former Juve boss Marcello Lippi at Inter, who splashed out €49m to partner the Italian with Brazilian great Ronaldo.

"The thing is that, if you play in Spain, Italy, England – they're the biggest competitions, so you can't block it out," Vieri said when asked about the pressures of being the world's most expensive player. "Automatically, from being normal to 100 times of pressure on you because 90billion Italian lire in those days, the player who cost more than anyone, every game you play you're judged… even more than before. 

"At Atletico, I was sold to Lazio – big scandal came out – then when I went to Inter for 90b [lire], the world went crazy. From Lazio, moving to Inter, going to play at San Siro, it's a heavy thing because San Siro – the biggest players in the world have played there, 85-90,000 people judging you all the time. They whistle if you don't play good. They've seen everyone. 

"When I went there, I said to myself, 'Bob, first game is at home, when I went to camp, in a month and a half, your first game is at home and whatever happens, you have to go score in that game. if you score in that game, you're gonna fly'. I trained a month and a half in camp, I wouldn't go out anywhere. First game, I scored three goals at home, 90,000 people went crazy. Took a lot of pressure off my shoulders that first game. Here they call me Mr. 90m guy, even today. It's a thing you're gonna call you that for the rest of your life."

Now, Vieri watches the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe bang in the goals across Europe. 

How would he fare in 2020-21?

"I think it's easier to score these days because there's less marking. Before, football, first thing was not to concede, in Italy league at least," Vieri said. "It was probably the hardest league in the world in those days. All the biggest players in the world were there. We started the competition where seven teams were trying to win the league, not one or two but seven big teams with big, big players. If we would shoot twice in 90 minutes, we were happy. Those two shots, we would score one goal, we had to score once. 

"Today, the game has changed. The defenders don't mark as much, they play. They're more like midfielders, you have to play with the ball at your feet – the whole team have to attack. Now you have 15 strikers who score more than 20 goals. It's fun to watch still but changed a lot."

Popular on social media and Italian television in his post-playing days, Vieri has ventured into coaching as he works to complete his UEFA A and B license alongside the likes of former team-mates Del Piero and De Rossi.

"All of us, the former players, when we talk about things, we only miss one thing – staying together and training... having fun. The everyday stuff. The dressing rooms, we had the craziest dressing rooms, people. Taking the p*** out of everyone 24/7. 

"I speak with all my ex-team-mates. It's just fun. Now, I'm doing the coaching course… We just laugh, we have fun. We are doing UEFA A and B together. The way we talk to each other, it's just like back in the days. With a lot of former team-mates, we play paddle ball here in Milan. When we can, we hang out."

"The first thing is you need a license to coach. It's very hard, it's not easy. When you're doing two courses together because the federations asked UEFA if just the top 10 players could do it, so we're doing it," added Vieri, when asked if he was eyeing a coaching career.

"We'll see what happens. If I have a nice project, anything can happen. 1,000 of doors will open like I always say."

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