Fairytale Gilchrist century lifts Australia to victory

Published: Friday, February 15, 2008, 18:38 [IST]
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PERTH: Local hero Adam Gilchrist scored a fairytale century in a man-of-the-match performance that lifted Australia to victory in their tri-series one-day game against Sri Lanka at the WACA Friday.

After his 118 helped the hosts make 236 from 49.4 overs, Sri Lanka blew the chance to go top of the tri-series ladder when several batsmen threw their wickets away as they were dismissed for 173 in the 46th over, giving Australia a 63-run win.

Classy left-hander Kumar Sangakkara anchored the Sri Lankan chase with 80 and was the last man to fall, but received no support and could do little but watch as poor shots cost wickets at the other end.

The tourists' last five men fell for just 14 runs as they handed Australia a bonus point and top spot on the ladder.

Spinner Brad Hogg (2-41) rocked Sri Lanka with two wickets in as many balls, seamer Nathan Bracken claimed 3-31 and Mitchell Johnson led the Australian fightback with the ball, taking 3-29.

But the match was all about Gilchrist, the 36-year-old left-hander quitting international cricket at the end of the series and playing his final innings at his home ground.

The wicketkeeper-batsman was given an emotional farewell when he eventually fell in the 44th over, holing out to Chamara Kapugedera at mid-off from a leading edge off impressive speedster Lasith Malinga.

He had faced 132 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes to notch up his 16th one-day century, Australia winning every match in which he has reached three figures.

When he brought up the milestone with a push to long-on for a single off Muttiah Muralitharan, it was the signal for a celebration.

The crowd rose as one, a "Gilly" chant went up around the ground and Gilchrist savoured the moment, gesturing repeatedly to teammates, family and the crowd in what became an extended break in play.

Gilchrist did not produce the fireworks of his 57-ball Test century at the same venue just over a year ago, or his 104-ball 149 against the Sri Lankans in the World Cup final. But his century on Friday still took just 117 balls and 172 minutes.

However, his timing was impeccable from the moment the innings began and there were still shots that were vintage Gilchrist, most notably a big six straight down the ground off Farveez Maharoof and another over square leg off Nuwan Kulasekera to bring up his 50.

He attempted to lift the tempo after reaching his ton, lofting another massive six over backward square leg off Kulasekera before Malinga finally struck.

Gilchrist lacked support as the Australians lost their way after being well-placed at 171 for two.

He teamed up with Michael Clarke (43) to add 105 for the third wicket, but the Australians were never able to accelerate their scoring, losing the last eight wickets for just 65 and their last four wickets for four, seemingly handing Sri Lanka the initiative.

With Malinga troubling Australia with his pace to snare 4-47, it was the second successive match the home side had failed to last the allotted 50 overs.

Opener Matthew Hayden failed to deal with a sharp rising delivery from Malinga and made just four, a score matched by Andrew Symonds, while captain Ricky Ponting looked in better touch but guided a Chaminda Vaas delivery straight to first slip on 25.

Clarke suffered bruised ribs when struck by a Malinga delivery and was unable to field.

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