April 3, 2002

Century for Gilchrist as Australia take one-day series

With Adam Gilchrist hammering out a thunderous century, Australia shrugged aside South Africa's highest total in five matches to wrap up the Standard Bank one-day series by eight wickets at Kingsmead on Wednesday night.

Under most circumstances South Africa's 267 for six might well have proved a winning scored, but with Gilchrist carving out 105 at better than a run-a-ball, Australia cruised home with 14 balls to spare to take a 4-0 lead with only two games remaining.

Gilchrist was in stupendous form after being given a life by Jacques Kallis at slip on 11 and as he and Matthew Hayden battered the home attack during a 170-run opening partnership, it was possible to see the spirit and fight drain out of Shaun Pollock's South Africans.

After the life given him by Kallis and another near miss on the midwicket boundary when he had 58, it would be stretching a point to argue that Gilchrist's innings was near flawless. It was, however, both brutal and entertaining in its execution and in this sort of mood it is difficult to imagine any attack in the world containing him.

Hayden contributed 59 to the partnership almost unnoticed as Gilchrist slapped the South African bowlers around Kingsmead and although they both fell within 10 runs of each other, all that was required of Ricky Ponting (44 not out) and Damien Martyn (47 not out) was bat out the last 17 overs of the innings. It was as comprehensive a beating as Australia have given South Africa this summer and it is understating the case to say that the home team now appear to have exhausted all their options.

The bowling was ragged - the faster Nantie Hayward tried to bowl, the harder Gilchrist hit him - the fielding ordinary and the body language told its own tale. South Africa were outplayed in the field despite making a decent fight of it after being asked to bat first.

South Africa's best batting display of the series came by way of a relatively sound start, contributions all the way down and a characteristically perky 76 from Jonty Rhodes.

Playing on his home ground, the little Natalian joined together with Mark Boucher to rattle off 97 for the sixth wicket off 80 deliveries to give the innings a kick at almost exactly the right moment.

Rhodes started the series slowly before bursting into form with an 83 in the third match in Potchefstroom. He followed this with 56 in Bloemfontein on Easter Saturday and Wedesday's innings took him just 70 deliveries as South Africa took 86 off the last 10 overs of the innings.

It wasn't exclusively the Jonty Rhodes show, though. Graeme Smith, playing in his second match, made his second 40, falling four runs short of 50 this time when he tried to lap at Shane Warne for Gilchrist to scramble around and a take off a top edge.

It was, nevertheless, a fine effort from the 21-year-old and although debate will continue as to the wisdom of dropping Gary Kirsten, Smith, at least, has justified his inclusion in the team.

Not nearly so much, though, has Herschelle Gibbs who scratched around for 25, being dropped by Gilchrist on 16, before getting out to another wild swipe, this time at Jason Gillespie. No matter Gibbs' undoubted talents, he is playing poorly at the moment and perhaps he, rather than Kirsten, should have been the one given a rest.

Nicky Boje made a run-a-ball 22 batting at three, certainly his most successful position in the batting line-up, Kallis, a stodgy 21 in one of his more forgettable matches, and Neil McKenzie 17 before getting what might have been an unfortunate decision from umpire Rudi Koertzen.

After McKenzie, however, came Boucher, perhaps the ideal person to partner Rhodes in a run scramble and together they knocked the ball around Kingsmead as the Australian fielding, never at its sharpest on this occasion, became progressively more untidy.

Of the Australian bowlers, Warne was the most economical while picking up the wickets of Smith and McKenzie. Not a bad effort at all for someone who's had the last two weeks off.