Gilchrist leads Valentine’s Day massacre

Brisbane, February 14:

Adam Gilchrist hammered the fastest one-day hundred by an Australian in a Valentine’s Day massacre of Sri Lanka’s bowlers at the Gabba here on Tuesday to clinch the triangular limited-overs series.

Gilchrist thrashed a spectacular 122 off 91 balls and shared in a 196-run opening stand with Simon Katich to set up the Australians for an overwhelming nine-wicket victory in the third match of the finals’ series.

The Australian vice-captain raised his 14th ODI century off just 67 balls, the fastest by an Australian in terms of balls faced, as the home side easily chased down Sri Lanka’s 266 for nine off 50 overs. It was the largest successful chase by Australia in Brisbane surpassing their 235 in defeating the West Indies in 2000-01.

Gilchrist profited from a ‘life’ on 20 when he was fumbled by Sanath Jayasuriya in a two-handed skied chance to smack 13 fours and four sixes and completed an emotional hundred by wildly waving his bat to the crowd. Gilchrist was finally out when he was bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan with his team well in command, needing only 71 runs for victory.

Katich was sedate by comparison, but he provided the perfect foil to Gilchrist’s explosive hitting and has probably done enough to clinch a berth in the Australian team to be named on Wednesday for the one-day series in South Africa this month. Katich scored his maiden ODI century off 136 balls and remained not out 107 including nine fours, with skipper Ricky Ponting on 28 when the target was reached at 267 for one.

Earlier, three Sri Lankans scored half-centuries - Mahela Jayawardene 86 off 91 balls, Russel Arnold 76 off 71 balls and Kumar Sangakkara 59 off 85 balls - to take advantage of winning the toss. The tourists recovered strongly after losing the wickets of Jayasuriya (6) and skipper Marvan Atapattu (7) for just 28 runs.

The Australians paid early for a series of dropped catches with Atapattu grassed in a mix-up between Gilchrist and Mike Hussey at slip on six and Sangakkara put down by Katich on nine. Mick Lewis also misjudged a catch off Jayawardene on 11, running in off the boundary rope only for the ball to go over his head for four.

But Ponting latched onto one of his greatest-ever catches to dismiss Arnold with a blinding one-handed take falling backwards in the outfield. Andrew Symonds also took three catches, two of them outstanding athletic efforts to dismiss Atapattu and Chamara Kapugedera (9). Left-arm seamer Nathan Bracken followed up his four wickets in the second final to take 3-44 off 10 overs and Stuart Clark claimed 2-45 off 10 overs.