Ahmedabad, October 8 :

Chris Gayle grabbed three wickets in 13 balls and hammered 41 off 34 balls as the West Indies whipped Zimbabwe by nine wickets in a Champions Trophy qualifying match here on Sunday.

Gayle took 3-3 in 3.1 overs and Jerome Taylor and Dwayne Smith picked up two wickets each as Zimbabwe were shot out 85, the third lowest total in the biennial tournament.

The West Indies, hoping to defend the Champions Trophy they won in England in 2004, coasted past the modest target in the 15th over after left-handed Gayle smashed seven boundaries and a six.

Gayle, who contributed 41 in a first wicket stand of 66 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, holed out in the deep against Elton Chigumbura in the 10th over.

But West Indian captain Brian Lara (24 not out) and Chanderpaul (14 not out) ensured the match ended before the scheduled dinner break even as the lights were being switched on at the Motera stadium.

Lara smashed his counterpart Prosper Utseya for two consecutive sixes to bring an early end

to the one-sided contest. The 21-year-old Utseya, who won the toss and elected to take first strike, top-scored for his side with 27.

Zimbabwe were in danger of falling below the lowest-ever Champions Trophy total of 65 by the United States against Australia in 2004 when they slipped to 58-7 by the 19th over. But Utseya and Anthony Ireland prevented that humiliation by adding 24 for the eighth wicket, the highest partnership in the dismal innings.

Only Bangladesh among the Test-playing nations have fared worse in the tournament, making 77 against New Zealand in Colombo in 2002. The Zimbabweans played into Lara’s hands as eight batsmen failed to reach double figures. Two ran themselves out attempting risky singles.

The beleaguered African nation, who lost the services of top stars like Andy Flower and Heath Streak due to political turmoil in the cricket administration at home, have fallen below 100 for the eighth time in one-day internationals. The rout on Sunday followed a 5-0 hammering suffered by Zimbabwe against Lara’s men in the West Indies in April.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are the other two teams in the round-robin qualifying league where the top two will advance to the main tournament. Sri Lanka defeated Bangladesh in the opening match on Saturday.