Australia's shock defeat against West Indies in their Champions Trophy match at the Brabourne Stadium came despite a beautifully constructed 92 from Adam Gilchrist in an innings in which no other Australian batsman reached a half-century. Gilchrist's Test numbers have taken a severe beating since the Ashes last year - he only averages 26.88 in his last 17 Tests - but as a one-day batsman he remains a significant force, still destroying new-ball attacks with aplomb.
In fact, if the stats are anything to go by, Gilchrist has become even more effective in the last three years. While his career average is 36.67, in the last third of the matches that figure has gone up to nearly 41. The other significant improvement has been in his ability to convert his fifties into centuries - though he failed to do that on Wednesday, Gilchrist has turned four of his last 11 half-centuries into hundreds.
His innings against West Indies was also uncharacteristic for its lack of flamboyance - it didn't contain a single six, and took him 120 deliveries, that's a strike rate of less than 77 runs per 100 balls, a significant drop on his career strike rate of 96.48. In fact, when Gilchrist normally gets past 50, he does so quickly, but this knock was his third-slowest fifty-plus score in ODIs. The table below lists his six slowest fifty-plus scores: it's interesting to see that the only three such efforts when he has finished with a strike-rate of less than 80 have all come on the subcontinent, where pitches have often lacked pace and made run-scoring difficult. Of his 60 fifty-plus scores (14 hundreds, 46 fifties), on 42 occasions he has ended up scoring at faster than a run a ball.
The table below shows how valuable Gilchrist is to the Australian side as a batsman alone. In 2006, only Michael Hussey has done better than him in terms of averages, while none have matched Gilchrist's strike rate. Australia's problem with their batting this year has been Damien Martyn's poor form, while Ricky Ponting too hasn't come to the party like he has in Tests. It's difficult to find fault, though, with Gilchrist's batting performances in the ODIs.
A couple of consecutive close finishes has revived the Champions Trophy, but before these last two games, fans couldn't have been blamed for shying away from the tournament, as match after match finished well before time with one team running away with it. It significantly dampened interest in the tournament, but beyond that also raised another pertinent question: are one-day internationals producing more one-sided results lately than they did in the past? And to what extent has the entry of lesser teams contributed to such listless matches?
The list below only confirms the general feeling that many ODIs played these days are one-sided (which, for the purpose of this exercise, is defined as matches which were either won by a margin of at least 50 runs, or by at least five wickets with a minimum of 30 balls to spare). Since 2000, nearly 50% of the matches have produced a one-sided result, so you can't really complain about the fans getting more enthusiastic by the recently introduced 20-over format.
What if the minnows are removed from the equation? The trend still seems to be slightly worrying going by decade-wise stats, with a rise of six percentage points in one-sided contests in the 2000s compared to the 1980s, but more recent stats suggests the trend is reversing. Since the 2003 World Cup, the percentage is down to a more manageable 33.57.
The team responsible for the most number of easy victories is, quite obviously, Australia: even against the non-minnow sides, they've won 38% of their matches convincingly. At the other end of the spectrum are West Indies, and surprisingly, South Africa, who both ensure, more often than the sides, that even when they win their opponents don't get a drubbing.