Batting with a squash ball in your glove can be an uncomfortable experience, but not for Adam Gilchrist. The result was perhaps the best performance in a World Cup final. This was his third scene-stealer in consecutive World Cup finals. Against Pakistan at Lord's in 1999, Gilchrist cracked 54 from 36 balls; four years later against India in 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 and true surface, there was no reining him - or Australia - in. He set the tone by clubbing Chaminda Vaas for four and six in the third over and never looked back.
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The sixes were all on the leg side, or down the ground. With flashing hands and fast feet, Tillakaratne Dilshan was deposited along the same straight line twice in one over, one longer than the next. Muttiah Muralitharan was slog-swept and Sanath Jayasuriya was pulled. Dilhara Fernando put down a return chance when Gilchrist was on 31, and the next three deliveries were clubbed for four, four and six, the last of which very nearly took out the fire engine next to the 3Ws stand at long-on.
Gilchrist 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.
Eight sixes was achievement enough, but just as eye-catching were the number of fours he hit in the air, swivelling and sashaying with his familiar high-gripped flagellations. There was a touch of the super-heroic about it. The ground is for normal men, he seemed to be saying. By the time he was finished, there was little doubt about the place of his innings in the pantheon of innings played in World Cup finals, and that list included masterpieces by Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Aravinda de Silva and Ricky Ponting.
This article was first published in 2014