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Peter English at the Gabba
February 14, 2006
Adam Gilchrist finished his home international season the way he started it by smashing a national record for the fastest century as he led Australia to a 2-1 VB Series finals victory. With Gilchrist, the Man of the Match, galloping to his hundred in only 67 balls - it arrived six deliveries sooner than his 103 in the second Super Series ODI in October - Australia underlined the Adelaide loss in the opening match as a blip in a dominating performance that matched Sunday's 167-run victory.
Sri Lanka's seemingly testing total of 9 for 266 looked scrawny as soon as Gilchrist shrugged off a slow start, and he bounded to 122 off 91 before Simon Katich reached his overlooked maiden century to secure a nine-wicket victory. Gilchrist supplied a devastating performance in a rare third final and the power of his hitting stunned a crowd of 26,139 that turned up at only two days' notice, and delayed the finish by pelting the ground with empty cups.
Gilchrist has been in wonderful touch since his return from a mid-series break, making two centuries and a fifty in seven innings, and Sri Lanka had no way to stop this whirlwind of four sixes and 13 fours. Racing to fifty in 38 balls, Gilchrist thundered his century in only 67 deliveries in front of a healthy crowd ignoring strange stadium regulations banning the Mexican wave and beach balls.
The mood bounced Australia's way after a slow start when Gilchrist smashed three fours from Ruchira Perera and he returned more fire after Katich had controlled the strike for a couple of overs with some brutal boundaries. He hooked Dilhara Fernando into the second tier, followed it with a pulled four, and the ball after raising his fifty he dumped another six over long-on. The milestone arrived as a surprise as Katich had taken a while adjusting to the conditions - he was 9 off 31 - and it came after Gilchrist had been dropped on 20 by Sanath Jayasuriya, who had two juggles at mid-on before the ball hit the ground.
Katich's batting has been judged harshly this summer despite regular returns, but when he is the second act to Gilchrist he is unlikely to get many laughs or cheers. With the South Africa tour squad being named on Wednesday morning he made another well-timed contribution with his first ODI century. Katich finished with 107 from 142 balls and a backroom role in a 196-run opening stand, the third highest in Australian history, that was dominated by his partner's 14th hundred.
Muttiah Muralitharan was harassed by the crowd with no-ball chants, and he was again the villain for the locals when he bowled Gilchrist in the 33rd over. Tonight Gilchrist jumped almost as high as Andrew Symonds had on Sunday when he reached three figures, but he was weary as he left ground to more saluting.
Sri Lanka's target-setting was let down by the absence of a century despite impressive fifties from Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Russel Arnold. Australia began strongly through Nathan Bracken's two wickets in the first eight overs, but the visitors built cleverly - if unspectacularly - throughout the innings as Sangakkara started the recovery and Arnold gave it some thrust at the end with 76 from 70. The late Arnold burst, which was ended by an awesome back-tracking catch from Ricky Ponting, was necessary, but it was futile when weighed next to Gilchrist.
The pressure of a surface bouncier than those in Sydney and Adelaide affected the Sri Lanka batsmen early in their innings, but Jayawardene picked up the pace of the pitch and increased his rate to almost a run a ball in collecting eight fours in his 86. His 100-run stand with Sangakkara, who found regular gaps, was ended by Michael Clarke's spin and Stuart Clark, who grabbed 2 for 45, shut down Jayawardene's hopes of a hundred.
Australia's ground fielding was led by Andrew Symonds, the Man of the Series, who took two brilliant catches and one easy one, although they were upset by the spilling of two comfortable chances before Bracken added Marvan Atapattu to the important wicket of Jayasuriya. Bracken returned to remove Arnold with the help of Ponting's incredible take, but even that was quickly lost in a Gilchrist performance that ended Australia's summer on a series-winning high.
Sanath Jayasuriya c Symonds b Bracken 6 (1 for 7)
Easy take at point from leading edge
Marvan Atapattu c Symonds b Bracken 7 (2 for 28)
Jumping catch at cover taken with one hand
Kumar Sangakkara lbw Clarke 59 (3 for 128)
Long way forward but hit in line with off trying legside flick
Mahela Jayawardene c Katich b Clark 86 (4 for 204)
Square drove to backward point
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Hussey b Clark 3 (5 for 213)
Stepped across to glance to short fine leg
Chamara Kapugedera c Symonds b Lewis 9 (6 for 238)
Ran in from deep cover and celebrated a smooth dive
Russel Arnold c Ponting b Bracken 76 (7 for 259)
Catch of the season. A miraculous one-handed grab running backwards and jumping at midwicket
Muttiah Muralitharan run out 3 (8 for 265)
Underarm from Gilchrist after aborting attempted bye
Chaminda Vaas run out 11 (9 for 266)
Brett Lee throw from long off to the bowler's end
Adam Gilchrist b Muralitharan 122 (1 for 196)
Down the pitch to miss a doosra
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