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February 23, 2002
Adam Gilchrist missed out on a million, but carved his way into the record books with Test cricket's quickest double century as Australia took complete control of the first Castle Lager/MTN Test match against South Africa at the Wanderers on Saturday.
Gilchrist's 204 not out, which came off just 213 deliveries, enabled Australia to pulverise a depleted South African attack for a record 652 for seven before the home team wobbled to 111 for four by the close.
With three days to play and the follow-on target of 453 still somewhere over the horizon, South Africa seem to be in an impossible position. After the 3-0 drubbing in Australia, many feared that the scars would still to be too fresh to have healed and, if anything, the home team's start has been worse than anything most could ever have imagined. Injuries, disorganisation and selectorial indifference have played their parts, but the basic truth of the matter is that Australia have simply overwhelmed the home team.
If the first day belonged to Australia, the second day was a rout with Gilchrist and Damien Marty taking centre stage. Together they added 317 for the sixth wicket, at one point threatening the record 346 held by Sir Donald Bradman and Jack Fingleton.
In the end, Martyn got out for 133, slicing Jacques Kallis down to Gary Kirsten at third man to leave the record intact. "It's best you don't tamper with those sort of records," Gilchrist said afterwards with Martyn concurring. "I don't think you want to knock The Don off," he said.
It was astonishing batting reaching a climax between lunch and tea as Australia took 190 off the South African attack in fewer than 26 overs. Gilchrist, who said he had gone through patches while at the crease, was 199 at the tea break after coming within a couple of metres of hitting an advertising billboard and thereby earning himself a solid gold ingot.
At the current gold price, the shot would have been worth R1,3-million to Gilchrist and his team-mates and although he said he hadn't set out deliberately to aim for the billboard, he admitted that he was aware of how close he had come.
When Gilchrist reached his double-century with a four off the first ball he faced after tea, he had taken just 212 balls, eight better than the previous record held by Ian Botham. He also became only the fifth wicketkeeper to make a Test double-hundred.
For much of the time, Martyn batted in Gilchrist's shadow, but he opened up for the second 50 of his hundred - which took only 37 deliveries - as the South African attack looked less and less likely to achieve a breakthrough.
It was, in other words, a massacre and when Australia declared, just after Gilchrist had reached 200, they were only two short of the 654 for five made by England in the Timeless Test of 1938/39, the most runs ever conceded by South Africa.
If the home side believed that it couldn't get much worse, they were mistaken. Kirsten fell to the second ball he faced, caught at slip off Glenn McGrath; Herschelle Gibbs made a streaky 34 without ever bothering to move his feet before falling lbw to Shane Warne; Kallis, who dropped Matthew Hayden on 0 and Gilchrist on 35, scarcely made up for it by managing only 3 and Neil McKenzie responded to a life given him by Steve Waugh in the gully by immediately top-edging McGrath down to fine leg.
Ashwell Prince, a late replacement for Justin Ontong, has battled well for his 47, but there has been little support for him on his Test debut.
Some of the batting was brainless, but the fact is that South Africa already look a well-beaten side. The question is not so much whether they can wriggle out of this game, but whether they have to stomach to contest the next two Test matches.
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