Australia v World XI, 2nd ODI, Melbourne October 7, 2005

Gilchrist lays Ashes ghost to rest

Adam Gilchrist's batting has regained its freedom after an English summer of claustrophobia caused by Andrew Flintoff. With Flintoff watching and suffering, Gilchrist smashed Australia's fastest one-day century from 73 balls



Adam Gilchrist: Take that! © Getty Images
Adam Gilchrist's batting has regained its freedom after an English summer of claustrophobia caused by Andrew Flintoff. With Flintoff watching and suffering, Gilchrist smashed Australia's fastest one-day century from 73 balls against a first-choice World XI attack and doused any concerns his strokeplay was rusting.

During an innings that was better suited to a runway than an indoor stadium, Gilchrist's defining moments were not his four sixes or eight fours that doubled the voice of another under-par crowd. The most satisfying stage was his treatment of Flintoff. Simon Katich said after the first match that Flintoff was bowling as quickly as during the Ashes, but without the threat of reverse-swing Gilchrist stepped forward faster than a charity collector at a pedestrian crossing.

A poor Test series cannot be forgotten in a couple of limited-overs innings - he has 45 and 103 from the two matches - but the recovery of Gilchrist has gained an unmatchable pace. Australia have been swept along and enjoyed their second group hug to seal the series with a match to play.

Gilchrist was already warm when Flintoff came on, welcoming his tormentor with a cut past point for four. In England the ball chased Gilchrist, but since his return to home and hard wickets his shoulders have relaxed and the weight of the World is suddenly enjoyable.

Swinging freely and smoothly, Gilchrist took 20 runs from ten Flintoff deliveries and with his revived powers of destruction then attacked Shoaib, who had opened the match with a fierce bouncer, Muttiah Muralitharan and Jacques Kallis. A run-out miss from Kevin Pietersen on 98 was one of Gilchrist's few moments of trouble as he beat the national record of 78 deliveries that he had shared with Allan Border.

Unaware of either the new or the old mark, Gilchrist said he didn't feel he got off to a flyer but felt the acceleration during the middle of the innings. "It was very satisfying and very pleasing against a line-up like that," he said. "I'm relieved to be getting runs. Coming back from England we had a lot of hard work to do and we did it so it felt good."

Gilchrist has made a habit of loud celebrations on reaching three figures following times of trouble. This one was lengthy but more subdued as he thrust his helmet towards the players' enclosure, where he earlier deposited a six off Muralitharan, and Ricky Ponting walked along the pitch for an elongated shake of his wicketkeeper's hand.

The England series proved how much Australia have relied on Gilchrist to resuscitate lost innings causes from No. 7. This innings reminded everybody how faithful he has been at giving Australia speeding starts as an opener. It also showed he was healing quickly after Flintoff's Ashes.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo