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January 30, 2008
Best ODI Batting Performance
This was his third scene-stealer in consecutive World Cup finals. Against Pakistan at Lord's in 1999, he cracked 54 from 36 balls; four years later against India at Johannesburg, he made 57 from 48. But nothing quite compared to this. Once the sun had come out and Gilchrist had gauged the pace and bounce of a rock-hard, true surface, there was no reining him - or Australia - in.
His 149 was the biggest score ever made in a World Cup final, beating the mark of 140 set by his captain, Ricky Ponting, four years before, and it was launched in a stand of 172 for the first wicket with Matthew Hayden. By the time of Hayden's dismissal for 38, Gilchrist was already sitting pretty on 119, having faced almost five overs more than his partner.
Gilchrist set the tone by clubbing Chaminda Vaas for four and six in the second over. He was untroubled by Lasith Malinga - the deadliest weapon in the Sri Lankan armoury - who opted for accuracy over explosiveness. Gilchrist had raced to 31 off 30 balls when Dilhara Fernando dropped a tough catch off his own bowling. Gilchrist made him pay for the miss by hitting two fours and a six off the next three balls. He brought up his 15th ODI hundred from just 72 balls, with a drilled four over long-off, and thereafter heaved through the line with impunity, trusting his eye, the surface and the fact that the fight had gone out of his opponents.
He later revealed that he had slipped a squash ball into his left glove so his bottom hand wouldn't be overly dominant. It worked, and how.
Best ODI Bowling Performance
Malinga's captain, Mahela Jayawardene, brought him back into the attack when a perfectly crafted South African chase was 10 runs away away from fruition. South Africa needed a meagre four runs to win with five wickets in hand when Malinga struck, finishing batsmen off as if swatting flies.
With the old ball in hand, he bowled at more than 140kph, and crucially produced reverse swing, ensuring that the length which had earlier been so easy to score off suddenly became almost unplayable. He fooled Shaun Pollock with a beauty of a slower ball before hurrying Andrew Hall with a juddering yorker that Hall sent looping up to cover. The first ball of Malinga's next over produced the hat-trick, the fifth in World Cups, when the set Jacques Kallis nicked to the wicketkeeper. Then a brute of a yorker zoomed through Makhaya Ntini.
No bowler in one-day history had ever managed four in four - the closest had been Saqlain Mushtaq, who took four in five - and Malinga took Sri Lanka to the brink of an outrageous daylight robbery. The atmosphere rose to fever pitch: three runs to get, the last pair in the middle. Robin Peterson and Charl Langeveldt survived a nervy four deliveries before Vaas came on for the next over, a maiden. Malinga was back for a final shot. Jayawardene told him: "We were nowhere in the game, you've got us here. Just enjoy yourself."
Malinga's brilliance, though, was not enough for Sri Lanka. Two balls in, it was over, as Robin Peterson edged one past slip and then knocked down the stumps at the non-striker's end in delirium. Adjudicators awarded the Man-of-the-Match to Langeveldt, who had taken five, then Malinga, and then both jointly. "Malinga was incredible," said Graeme Smith. "He made me age a bit."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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