Gilly’s day out

Adam Gilchrist, in his last international game at the WACA, bared his heart before an audience that had seen him grow from a country boy to a gleaming sport icon, writes S. Dinakar.

Sport, at any level, is a lot about emotions. The relationship between Adam Gilchirst and the WACA crowd is a symbiotic one. On, February 15 at this famous venue, the two came together to create a magical farewell.

Gilchrist, in his last international game at the WACA, bared his heart before an audience that had seen him grow from a country boy to a gleaming sport icon.

The batsman-wicket-keeper’s parting kiss to his home fans was a match-winning century. All his 16 ODI hundreds have fetched Australia a victory.

“It was a perfect end,” conceded Gilchrist after the match. There was pressure on him to perform in the lead-up to the CB series clash in Perth and Gilchrist admitted this: “I felt it (the pressure) more than any game after I announced my retirement.”

The manner he reacted after reaching a hundred reflected his relief. Gilly wore his heart on his sleeves on a special Friday before a full house that chanted his name.

For a change, he had been conscious of the approaching feat. He took his time to reach the three-figure mark and relied on singles. This was an innings from Gilly where the big blows — the pulls and the huge drives — were mixed with careful nudging and pushing.

Perth’s favourite son said he had received a message from the dressing room to keep going when he had wanted to put his foot on the accelerator. “I got a message from the Punter (Ponting) that this was a pitch for such an innings,” said Gilchrist.

Yet, he made 118 off 132 balls, struck nine boundaries and three sixes. The effort was slow only by Gilchrist’s standards. For providing him the leeway to consume just a little more time in the middle, he thanked his team-mates. “I think they all wanted me to get a hundred,” said Gilchrist.

His 118 formed exactly half of Australia’s 236. After he was the fifth man dismissed at 206, the host collapsed to 236 all out. The next highest individual score in the innings was Michael Clarke’s 43.

In the night, Gilchrist walked up to collect the Man of the Match award under the lights amid chants of ‘Gilly, Gilly.’

Fired up by Gilly’s heroics, Australia won the CB series encounter by 63 runs to collect a bonus point. Gilchrist could not stop smiling. His century required application on a surface where there was some bounce and carry and swing for the bowlers due to the Fremantle Doctor breeze.

Lasith Malinga, the slinger who can generate speed, sent back Matthew Hayden with a fiery short-pitched delivery and Muttiah Muralitharan — he removed Clarke with a wonderful doosra — came up with his best spell of the competition so far.

Gilchirst strung together a partnership with Clarke but there was hardly any resistance from the rest of the Aussies. Malinga’s yorkers were accurate and deadly in the end overs. Once again, the Aussies were bowled out inside 50 overs.

When the Lankans chased, only Kumara Sangakkara offered resistance with a 114-ball 80. The feisty left-hander strove to build partnerships but this was an evening when the Aussies kept achieving regular breakthroughs.

Left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson impressed. His vicious yorker that swung into the right-handed Tillekeratne Dilshan was a top delivery. Johnson snared Jayawardene outside the off-stump.

Given the fact that the Australians were only defending a moderate total, Ponting led the team aggressively. His decision to have a second slip for Jayawardene paid off.

Nathan Bracken — Jayasuriya gifted his wicket to the left-armer by giving the bowler a charge — was typically accurate hitting the pitch from a high-arm action and finding the left-armer’s angles.

Left-arm Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg went past the 150-wicket-mark in ODIs, spinning the ball into or away from the right-hander from over the wicket. He’s an under-rated spinner in the ODIs.

Medium pacer James Hopes, who along with Hogg, brought in variation of speed and length to the Aussie attack, was steady.

The Aussie slip catching, however, was ordinary. The one catch in the 30-yard ring that was seemingly brilliantly held was controversially given out. Andrew Symonds threw himself to his left at cover after Chamara Silva had waded into Bracken. Replays showed Symonds may have grounded the ball.

Despite the victory, the Aussies will be concerned about the collapse in the final phase of the innings where the side hardly achieved any momentum. And skipper Ponting’s lacklustre run continued — he pushed at a delivery angled across him by wily left-armer Chaminda Vaas. Clarke took a nasty blow on the ribs but X-rays did not reveal a fracture.

However, despite the victory, cracks are visible in the Aussie ranks.

THE SCORES

CB Series, sixth match, Australia v Sri Lanka, Perth, February 15. Australia won by 63 runs.

Australia: A. Gilchrist c Kapugedera b Malinga 118; M. Hayden c Maharoof b Malinga 4; R. Ponting c Jayawardene b Vaas 25; M. Clarke st. Sangakkara b Muralitharan 43; A. Symonds c Sangakkara b Maharoof 4; M. Hussey c Jayawardene b Kulasekara 25; J. Hopes c Jayasuriya b Kulasekara 2; G. Hogg b Malinga 5; B. Lee b Malinga 2; M. Johnson (run out) 0; N. Bracken (not out) 1; Extras (b-1, lb-1, w-4, nb-1) 7. Total (in 49.4 overs) 236.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-66, 3-171, 4-177, 5-206, 6-217, 7-232, 8-232, 9-233.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-0-35-1; Malinga 9.4-1-47-4; Maharoof 10-0-53-1; Kulasekara 10-0-52-2; Muralitharan 10-0-47-1.

Sri Lanka: T. Dilshan b Johnson 11; S. Jayasuriya c Hopes b Bracken 12; K. Sangakkara b Lee 80; M. Jayawardene c Ponting b Johnson 21; C. Silva c Symonds b Bracken 0; C. Kapugedera c Hussey b Hopes 26; F. Maharoof c (sub) b Hogg 7; C. Vaas c Gilchrist b Hogg 0; N. Kulasekara c Symonds b Bracken 0; L. Malinga b Johnson 5; M. Muralitharan (not out) 0. Extras (lb-7, w-3, nb-1) 11. Total (in 45.3 overs) 173.

Fall of wickets: 1-29, 2-35, 3-71, 4-76, 5-129, 6-159, 7-159, 8-160, 9-173.

Australia bowling: Lee 8.3-0-49-1; Bracken 8-2-21-3; Johnson 10-2-29-3; Hopes 9-1-26-1; Hogg 10-1-41-2.