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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gilchrist at his best as Australia achieve World Cup hat trick

Australia won its third consecutive World Cup final by defeating Sri Lanka in the rain-affected final at Bridgetown by 53 runs, a margin determined by the Duckworth- Lewis method.

Adam Gilchrist's magnificent 149/104 b was
unquestionably the highlight of the game. I was tempted to say that it was vintage Gilchrist, which wouldn't be inaccurate yet wouldn't do justice to the special quality of his innings, which had some interesting parallels with his century in the Third Ashes Test of 2006. Both were quickfire, though today's was scored at the beginning of a game reduced to 38 overs a side and against as good an attack as any contemporary team apart from Australia can field. I was certainly glad that I was sufficiently patient to stay up until the rain stopped and the game got under way.

Once again Cricinfo's S Rajesh and H R Gopalakrishna provide a detailed statistical analysis of the innings, including details of Gilchrist's performance against each Sri Lankan bowler: Muttiah Muralitharan, who conceded 23 runs from his 23 deliveries was the most economical, a term which only makes sense by comparing his return with Sanith Jayasuriya's 9 deliveries which yielded 20 runs.

Once the pattern of play became clear, which didn't take too long, the other Australian batters sensibly played support roles, though in another situation several of their contributions would have been acknowledged more.

I didn't think that Sir Lanka bowled as badly as 4/281 from 38 overs implies, but once Gilchrist got going there were too many balls which didn't do much apart from inviting him to thump them, which he frequently did. The wagon wheel chart shows that 107 (72%) of his runs were scored on the leg side, yet 65 (44%) - including 5 of his 8 sixes and 6 of his 13 fours - were scored in the V in front of the wicket. It's those powerful and productive straight drives which I remember most about his batting, and which I don't recall being such a feature of his previous innings.

Batting second under a lowering sky, Sri Lanka were always going to be hard pressed to make the runs, yet as expected they gave it a good try. Jayasuriya (63/67b) and Kumar Sangakkara (54/52b) were positive but when the latter was second out with the total 123 from 122 balls, the light of hope flickered and soon after dimmed as none of the others were able to stay long enough to sustain the challenge. Rain once again stopped play, then the target was revised to 269 from 36 overs, which was clearly beyond the remaining Sri Lankan batters' capabilities as darkness descended.

At the end, as so often in this World Cup, ineptitude ruled as the umpires stopped play, then interrupted the Australians' victory dances by making them complete the 36 overs in sepulchral gloom. Sri Lanka had effectively conceded the game by then, so what should have been a justified celebration, was delayed by a farcical interlude. No doubt many others will comment on this kerkuffle, but I'll say no more other than to congratulate Australia for a well deserved victory in both the match and the tournament.

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