ICC World Twenty20 Group A, Johannesburg: South Africa 208-2 (17.4 ovs) bt West Indies 205-6 (20 ovs) by 8 wkts
Gayle gave the tournament the thrilling start it deserved
Chris Gayle struck the first Twenty20 international ton but South Africa beat West Indies by eight wickets in the opening match of the ICC World event.
Gayle blasted 10 sixes, another record, in a pulsating 117 from 57 balls.
Graeme Smith was hit painfully on the hand off the first ball as South Africa chased 206 but the Windies missed three catches and leaked a record 23 wides.
Herschelle Gibbs, with a runner, fired 13 fours and two sixes in an epic 90 to seal victory with 14 balls remaining.
The bright lights and carnival atmosphere even affected the languid Gayle, who skipped out to the wicket like a prize fighter.
Freed from the pressure of captaincy, the Jamaican flicked Shaun Pollock over mid-wicket for the opening six in the third over and then dished out the punishment to Makhaya Ntini.
A lofted drive straight down the ground was followed next ball by a stupendous towering stroke that soared like a firework into the second tier at long-off.
We didn't do ourselves any justice by dropping catches and bowling wides. It really cost us in this game
Another extraordinary stroke brought him six more as he leant back to slice over third man and before long he dispatched the ball clean out of the massive Wanderers stadium.
The big shots continued with the Johannesburg altitude aiding aerial hitting - and all awhile dancers in camouflage hot pants gave the crowd extra entertainment.
Having appeared to damage his arm with another whirling dervish follow through for six, Gayle decided to flick one casually next ball - and hit it even further.
The shell-shocked South African fielders were compelled to shake Gayle's hand when his incredible innings ended with a top-edge straight up in the 17th over.
However the other West Indies batsmen were less effective and the resultant total was never out of reach on such a good wicket.
Beginning their quest to score in excess of 10 an over, the Proteas saw their captain floored by a hostile opening delivery from Daren Powell.
Smith bravely battled on but was clearly impaired and it benefited his team when he drove to cover.
Gibbs defied the pain to lead his team to a remarkable win
With the score on 59-1 and Gibbs on 20, Dwayne Bravo juggled and spilled a crucial chance on the cover boundary.
Dwayne Smith conceded 20 from his opening over and the required rate dipped below 10 for the first time.
But after Fidel Edwards came on for the ninth over and sent down the 14th wide, he ousted AB de Villiers who got a towering leading edge.
With 100 needed from the final 10 overs Gibbs was dropped on the boundary again by Shiv Chanderpaul and reached the 100 stand from 50 balls with the powerful Justin Kemp, who was badly missed at long-off by Samuels.
Gibbs defied an injury of his own to display some superb clean hitting, sharing 120 with Kemp (46).
The Windies were left to rue their lax display in the field and their failure to build on Gayle's outstanding innings.
South Africa's Shaun Pollock: "We had one report that showed the first scan and it showed no break [to Graeme Smith's hand]. He will have another scan but hopefully he should be OK.
"We had a fantastic crowd in here tonight. It was an awesome innings from Chris Gayle.
"For someone to get a big hundred like that and [for us] to knock off [the target] comfortably in the end gives us a lot of confidence."
West Indies skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan: "We didn't do ourselves any justice by dropping quite a few catches and bowling quite a few wides. I think it really cost us in this game.
"We also lost our way a bit with the bat in the last five overs or so. We should have scored 15 or 20 more more runs.
"I don't think it's because of a lack of practice. We just have to pick ourselves up and get it right in the next game."