Gilchrist back with a bang
Adam Gilchrist erased any concerns over his place at the top of Australia's order as his brutal century led his temporary side to a convincing six-wicket victory with nine overs to spare. He entered the match as stand-in captain with questions over his position and a debate over whether he should slip back to No. 7, but when he crashed his fifty from 44 deliveries his poor form had been forgotten with Sunday-night laundry.
The 116 came with feeling as well as 11 fours and four sixes. With the crowd chanting "Gillll-llly, Gillll-llly", he pushed a single to deep mid-off for his 13th ODI century and almost reached where the ball was fielded as he followed through with a moving celebration. His punches were weaker than his treatment of Chaminda Vaas and Akalanka Ganegama, but they were symbolically powerful for a 34-year-old player who had ended his first serious slump in his 229th ODI. It is an amazing record.
Visibly refreshed after a two-game rest, Gilchrist returned in Adelaide to score 34, but he saved his biggest flexing for his home crowd at Perth. Set 234 after a strong bowling performance, Australia worked hard for the first five overs before Gilchrist started charging and his form improved from scratchy - he was 13 off 26 balls - to superb. Vaas suffered first with a 12-run over, but the most savage treatment was saved for poor Akalanka Ganegama.
Supersubbed in for Russel Arnold, Ganegama immediately marked his run and then watched six reasonable balls go for 20, including three fours, a straight six and the first of two Gilchrist bat raises. It was his only over. The glowing start continued for Gilchrist and the free-swinging didn't stop until he played a tired shot in the 33rd over to Muttiah Muralitharan from his 105th ball.
Australia's position of 1 for 191 was so healthy that the dismissals of Hodge, Katich and Symonds mattered only in their six-ball miss of the bonus point for reaching the total is less than 40 overs. Katich provided essential back-up to Gilchrist and collected his highest one-day score of 82, a 110-ball innings that ended as he selflessly chased the extra reward. Like his demeanour, Katich's role will always be a quiet one when Gilchrist is making loud noises, and he played without fuss to post his second fifty in a row and ease the pressure from Phil Jaques that has been giving him sleepless nights.
Sri Lanka will also be looking forward to resting after their fourth consecutive game in a gruelling leg of the series, and they will wrestle South Africa for the second place in the finals from Tuesday. Australia have a nine-point lead and today's result was helped by the extra bounce and tight lines created by their bowlers.
A 121-run recovery by Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold was needed after Sri Lanka were flapping at 3 for 37, and the pair's half-centuries enabled the visitors to push from the early damage towards a useful total. Jayawardene's 94-ball 69 was the highlight as he and his team-mates were troubled by the foreign conditions, while Arnold was a willing ally as he composed 56 from 86 deliveries.
The WACA bounce is apparently not as steep as in recent seasons, but the spring created by Brett Lee, who took 2 for 42, and his fast-bowling friends provided plenty of problems for the top order. Jehan Mubarak, the opener, was hit in the chest before being surprised by a Stuart Clark short ball on 15 and Sanath Jayasuriya struggled to make contact during his short stay, which was ended by Lee.
Sri Lanka were already weakened by the absence of their captain Marvan Atapattu, who suffered back spasms during the five-wicket loss to Australia on Thursday, and they will need to find greater strength to stay in touch with a finals berth. Gilchrist now has nine wins from ten one-day matches in charge and he will hand the side back to the returning Ricky Ponting this week in great shape. Just like his batting.
Adam Gilchrist c&b Muralitharan 116 (105)
Chipped back to the bowler
Brad Hodge c Sangakkara b Fernando 2 (2 for 200)
Pushed forward and clever take
Simon Katich b Vaas 82 (3 for 209)
Bowled trying to attack a bonus point and his century
Andrew Symonds c Jayawardene b Vaas 5 (4 for 221)
Skied to cover
Sanath Jayasuriya c Gilchrist b Lee 0 (1 for 6)
Driving at a wider ball in the third over
Kumar Sangakkara run out 6 (2 for 16)
Mid-air underam from Symonds running in from point
Jehan Mubarak c Hodge b Clark 15 (3 for 27)
Miscued pull shot in Clark's first over
Russel Arnold c Clarke b Clark (4 for 148)
Tried to glide behind point and middled straight to backward point
Mahela Jayawardene c McGrath b Symonds 69 (5 for 170)
Nice running catch on the boundary at fine leg
Tillakaratne Dilshan run out 35 (6 for 224)
Caught short by McGrath's take from Brad Hogg's mid-off throw
Chamara Kapugedera c Hogg b Lee 22 (7 for 225)
Pulled to mid-off
Nuwan Kulasekara run out 0 (8 for 227)
Hit straight to midwicket and Andrew Symonds, who ran to bowler's-end stumps
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo