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February 15, 2008
You have to give it to Adam Gilchrist - he does have some sense of timing. In his last innings at the WACA, with Australia under a little bit of pressure half-way through the final edition of the CB Series, Adam Gilchrist and his little squash ball treated an adopted home crowd to a measured hundred that was exactly one half of his side's 236.
That total seemed rather disappointing given how well Sri Lanka did to dismiss Australia in 49.4 overs, but it was a similar pattern when they came out to bat. Australia's pace bowlers got stuck in early and Kumar Sangakkara - left to resuscitate a haemorrhaging run-chase - waged a lone battle with 80 as Sri Lanka fell 63 runs short, handing Australia a bonus point.
Forced to bowl on a hard surface, Sri Lanka struck early to get rid of Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, leaving Gilchrist with plenty to do. This wasn't a typical Gilchrist innings for sheer exhilaration or devastating off-side flaying - he scored 58% of his runs on the leg side - but it was determined in execution. He didn't entirely hook or cut on dancing feet; instead he nudged and pushed and drove, relying on placement over power.
Without any needless risks, Gilchrist ticked along at a fine strike-rate and kept the run-rate at near five an over. Still, he whet the appetite with two sixes as he raised fifty from 57 balls. Gilchrist dominated the century stand with a patient Michael Clarke, flicking and pushing singles and became the fourth batsman to aggregate 9000 runs as an ODI opener.
Given a life on 78 when Lasith Malinga failed to judge a catch at midwicket, Gilchrist raised his 16th ODI hundred after Sri Lanka hit back with the wickets of Clarke and Andrew Symonds in succession. He previously only had one hundred at this venue, against Sri Lanka in 2005-06, and his effort was appreciated with a tumultuous din. Promptly, he celebrated with a huge six over deep square leg off Muttiah Muralitharan.
Sri Lanka did well to run through the lower order inside 50 overs - while Gilchrist was there it seemed Australia would touch 275 - but they floundered with the bat. With 29 in three overs a needless shot from Sanath Jayasuriya, giving Nathan Bracken the charge, went straight to a well-positioned third man. Mitchell Johnson went right through Tillakaratne Dilshan's defences with a yorker-length delivery. Ponting dropped Jayawardene at second slip but managed to hold onto one later to send the Sri Lankan captain on his way for 21. The fourth wicket fell as Chamara Silva drove hard at Bracken and Symonds, diving to his left at cover, intercepted it one-handed - except replays suggested that Symonds may have grounded the ball.
While the rest of his top-order team-mates flashed and faltered, Sangakkara was firm. Shoring up the situation he put away the expansive shots and stuck to tight defence and pushed the two inclusions for this match, James Hopes and Brad Hogg, into the leg-side spaces. Hayden dropped Chamara Kapugedera on 16, at second slip, but Hopes, with his slow-medium pace, snapped a threatening partnership of 53. Hopes slipped in a well-directed bouncer and a pulling Kapugedera was well held by Michael Hussey, diving forward from deep midwicket.
Sangakkara went past his half-century from 80 balls as Sri Lankan hopes faded. With no one around to work the strike, Sangakkara began to chance his arm and a chipped shot fell about a yard short of Lee at long-on. Having just been reprieved by a fielding error when he ended up at the same end as Sangakkara, Farveez Maharoof slogged Hogg to deep midwicket to make it 6 for 159. Chaminda Vaas went first-ball courtesy an awful swipe across the line and Johnson and Lee nipped out the last two wickets.
Australia ultimately had Gilchrist's excellent hundred to thank and the home crowd acknowledged their hero with another standing ovation. At the twilight of his international career Gilchrist showed how much he will be missed in this unit.
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