Close Australia 344 for 7 (Gilchrist 172, Hayden 63) beat Zimbabwe 196 for 6 (Streak 64*) by 148 runs
Adam Gilchrist battled poor form to butcher Zimbabwe and finally score big runs
© Getty Images
Adam Gilchrist set the Bellerive Oval ablaze with a whirlwind 172 as Zimbabwe were routed by 148 runs in the fourth ODI at Hobart. Matthew Hayden's 63 and Damien Martyn's 47 were the sidelights. Brett Lee had a satisfactory comeback game, but this script had a dominant protagonist. And Gilchrist's 126-ball blitzkrieg was the only theme.
But first the formalities. Zimbabwe were confronted with a humungous target. Compounding their misery in the initial overs were the fiery short balls from Brett Lee and Brad Williams. Vusi Sibanda, Mark Vermeulen and Dion Ebrahim were all suckered into edging balls to Gilchrist. And when Grant Flower decided to gain some batting practice with watchful defense, only the burial remained. Heath Streak and Tatenta Taibu added 102 in 20 overs, more to prevent a humiliation, than anything else. Lee fired in a salvo of yorkers at the death, as if Australia were defending a paltry score. It just reflected the complete mismatch between the two sides.
Streak began well with the ball too. He had frustrated Matthew Hayden in their previous encounter at Sydney and started off in a similar manner today. He zeroed in on a precise length and swung the ball just a shade. But Hayden thwarted this fine spell by a strategy that would have done a bully proud. Even before the ball was delivered, he walked impudently down the pitch and ensured that it was in a hittable range. And when the bowlers changed their length, he changed his tactic. He stood firm and creamed them; one ball nearly beheaded Douglas Hondo on his follow through. It was a lesson both in improvisation and intimidation. But he was edgy throughout the innings, and could have been dismissed anytime. He finally departed after making 63, as a thick inside edge flew to Sibanda at midwicket (140 for 1), but the run-rate was climbing. The momentum was well and truly seized.
Gilchrist didn't try anything out of his way. His innings contained 96 runs in singles and twos, but it was chancy. He edged over the slips in the first over, and was on 36, when he was dropped by Hondo. Initially he wasn't allowed to uncork his rasping drives as the length the bowlers stuck to didn't permit any freedom of the arms. But anything slightly short was given a fearsome tonking. Once Hayden was dismissed, Ponting walked out, and a calm period followed. They pierced the gaps easily and ran their runs, not letting the run-rate drop by too much.
But the trigger was pressed on the last ball of the 33rd over. Gilchrist waltzed down the track and laced one through extra cover. The next over, Ponting lofted the a ball effortlessly over long-off. Stuart Matsikenyeri conceded 17 in the only over he bowled, and shots whistled into the crowd. And when Gilchrist hammered three fours off Hondo in the 39th over, even a total of 400 was on the cards.
Though Ponting holed out to long-off (246 for 2), Damien Martyn proved an ideal support cast. Gilchrist was well in sight of Saeed Anwar's record of 194 but he missed a straight ball from Sean Ervine, attempting to clear the midwicket fence (310 for 3). This innings was more notable for the fact that it wasn't as much a brutal subjugation, as it was an easy hammering. It had moments of calm between explosive gushes. And it came when he was supposedly out of form.
Martyn's 47 off 57 balls contained a few elegent drives and pushed the total towards 350. Three batsmen fell for ducks in the end, but that was more in a mad rush for quick runs. In the end, 344 wasn't too bad a score to finish with.