Opting to bat, Gayle literally butchered the Australian bowlers with a 41-ball 75-run innings as West Indies notched up 205 for four, which incidentally is the highest total of this edition.
The Caribbean team then returned to skittle out Australia for a paltry 131 with 3.2 overs to spare to set up a summit clash with Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Australian skipper George Bailey did put up a fight with a 29-ball 63, which was laced with six fours and four sixes but he was let down by the other batsmen, who returned to the pavilion without much to show.
Leg-break bowler Samuel Badree (2/27) removed openers David Warner (1) and Shane Watson (7) in his first three overs, while Marlon Samuels got rid of Mike Hussey (18) as Australia were tottering at 42 for three after the six overs of Powerplay ended.
Ravi Rampaul then removed Cameron White (5) and David Hussey (0) within a space of three deliveries to make it 42 for five.
On a strip where Gayle and Co made batting look easy, the Australians were all at sea. Both Watson and Warner tried to play shots which can’t be played when the ball keeps low while Mike Hussey was consumed by the slowness of the track.
David Hussey was rusty and others simply didn’t have it in them to put up a fight.
Earlier, Gayle hit five fours and half a dozen of towering sixes as West Indies made a mockery of Aussie attack.
Marlon Samuels with 26, Dwayne Bravo with a 31-ball-37 and last but not the least Kieron Pollard (38, 15 balls, 3×4, 3×6) also matched Gayle stroke for stroke to help West Indies cross the 200-mark.
Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, who had looked unplayable on the same track during Super Eights, was hammered for 48 runs in his three overs including 25 from the final one which had four sixes. Half of the 14 sixes in West Indies innings were hit off Doherty’s bowling.
Teams have often complained about the Premadasa track and difficulty in stroke-making but Gayle showed that if you have brute power, then nature of pitches become irrelevant.
The decision to promote Marlon Samuels up the order also partially paid off as he didn’t take much time to settle down before he started tonking the bowlers.
Samuels during his brief stay smashed 26 off 20 balls including a six each off left-arm spin duo of Doherty and Brad Hogg. He was deceived by a slower delivery from Pat Cummins, which send him back to the dug-out.
Gayle-Samuels had put on 41 runs in only 4.3 overs in which Samuels was the dominant partner.
Gayle, on the otherhand, hit his first six off Shane Watson over long-off and the second one came off Doherty’s bowling as it went sailing into the deep mid-wicket stand.
The third six off Doherty was another straight one but the standout one certainly was the fourth six hit of David Hussey’s bowling. The ball just soared into the upper tier in the deep mid-wicket region.
Bravo, on the otherhand, had settled down nicely as he first chanced his arms against Watson hitting over long on boundary and then pulled a short one from Hogg over mid-wicket region for another six. The 100 came up in the 12.5 overs and the 50 partnership off 35 balls.
The big-bodied Jamaican completed his third half century of the tournament of 29 deliveries when he hit a boundary off David Hussey.
Bravo lifted Cummins for his third six but perished immediately when he failed to get elevation of a fuller delivery from the bowler and was caught at the edge of the 30-yard circle.
Gayle-Bravo conjured 83 runs in less than nine overs but more importantly nullified the two left-arm spinners attacking them with great gutso. When Bravo was out, West Indies had reached 140 and a commendable total was just there in sight.