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The Roar's Cricket World Cup countdown: Adam Gilchrist's blistering final century

Can Australia channel past glories? (Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)
Editor
19th May, 2019
9

Never has a squash ball drawn so much attention in the cricket world. And never has a World Cup final ended in such farcical circumstances. But neither of those took any of the gloss off one of Adam Gilchrist’s finest innings.

With the 2019 Cricket World Cup almost upon us, we’re counting down the days by recalling ten of our authors and editors’ favourite tournament memories.

Don’t mistake this for a definitive ranking of the greatest World Cup moments – it’s not.

It’s instead a collection of the strange, brilliant or otherwise notable occasions which have littered cricket’s showpiece event, each told from a shamelessly biased and personal perspective. It’s a celebration of the moments which have made the tournament great.

There will be something of a myopic focus on the more recent tournaments, due as much to the age of everyone involved as anything else. That’s no slight on Viv Richards’ three run-outs in the inaugural final, Australia’s gripping victory in the 1987 decider or that semi-final in 1999. It’s only that we remember these moments far better.

Certainly, as a cricket-made kid growing up in the early 2000s, there was no player who inspired more awe and adulation than Adam Gilchrist. A renowned good guy of the sport who made headlines for walking in 2003 as Australia cantered to that title, he was the most exciting batsman to watch bar none.

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But in the lead-up to 2007 World Cup final, he struggled for form. He was averaging 34, and his only significant contributions with the bat had come against minnow nations – 59 against Bangladesh, 57 against the Netherlands, 46 against Scotland. In Australia’s two matches before the final, he’d managed a grand total of two whole runs.

Not that it mattered. That 2007 side which dominated in the West Indies was peerless. No team has ever dominated a World Cup so completely, nor will any do so again.

They won every match, none of which were close-run things. While Gilchrist struggled for scores, opening partner Matthew Hayden was at his brutal best, scoring 659 runs in ten innings. Ricky Ponting wasn’t too far behind with 539 in nine, while only two Australian batsman – Michael Hussey and Gilchrist – averaged under 60.

Meanwhile, the Brett Lee-less bowling attack was untouchable. Glenn McGrath, playing in his international swansong, finished with the most wickets in the tournament despite never taking more than three in an innings. Nathan Bracken went at the miserly economy rate of 3.6, while Shaun Tait scared his way to 23 scalps and Bradd Hogg spun his way to 21.

Pitted against Sri Lanka in the final, there was never a doubt in this 13-year old’s mind – nor that of the rest of the world – that Australia would win their third straight World Cup.

Plus, this was Australia we were talking about. They didn’t lose cricket matches. Not important ones, anyway. Certainly not World Cup finals.

Rain had already reduced the contest to 38 overs a side, but when Ponting won the toss and batted, Gilchrist took to the Sri Lankan attack like he only had ten. My decision to wake up in the wee hours of the morning were richly rewarded when that iconic flashing blade and high-handled grip plundered boundary after boundary.

While none of his specific shots that day stick in the memory, we all know the strokes Gilchrist played. Good length balls were dispatched over long-on, slightly overpitched ones caressed over the off-side. Rank long-hops were lashed wherever history’s best keeper-batsman felt like it.

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The opening stand was 172 off 22.5 overs. Hayden contributed just 38 of those runs, off 55 of the deliveries. Gilchrist was 119 off 83 by then, having already brought up his ton from 72 balls.

Adam Gilchrist celebrates his century in the 2007 Cricket World Cup final

(Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

That was the enduring image of the innings – Gilchrist scoring his hundredth run with another boundary, celebrating in the usual fashion with Hayden, but then pointing at the base of his left glove.

To the knowledge of precisely no-one else, he’d stuck a squash ball there, a training technique batting coach Bob Meuleman had him employ in the nets to prevent his bottom hand from dominating the bat too much.

“I just ran up to the TV camera and carried on…” Gilchrist said over ten years later.

“I was pointing to it just to prove to Bob back in Perth that I had it in there.”

There was no shortage of kids trying to stuff squash balls into their gloves the next time they went to the nets – not that it helped at all. But Gilly had done it, so it must be good, right?

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By the time he was dismissed eight overs after Hayden, Gilchrist had notched the highest ever score in a final, beating Ponting’s 140 in the previous decider. His 149 came at a strike rate of over 140, and boasted eight sixes. Sri Lanka could manage only three maximums in their entire innings.

Of course, fittingly for a tournament so littered with organisational incompetence – it was too long and drawn out, you couldn’t get a bottle of Coke in the stadiums, diehard fans were priced out of the Cup, and patrons faced eviction if they wore certain logos – the final descended into a farce.

More rain had both pushed the end time back and forced groundstaff onto the field armed with chunks of foam as they attempted to dry the outfield. The match referee and ground scorecard had different required run-rates under the Duckworth-Lewis system. The only thing which was clear was Sri Lanka were getting nowhere near the target.

With 63 required from three overs and Bridgetown not armed with floodlights, Sri Lanka were offered the light and took it, handing the victory to Australia. Celebrations ensued, the ceremony stands were wheeled on, only for umpire Aleem Dar to insist that no, the game wasn’t over.

After much confusion both at the ground and around the world – and not just among tired teenagers – Australia were forced to bowl the remaining three overs in what was pretty much pitch black. Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke did the honours, rushing through the 18 deliveries – 19 with a wide – which were delayed even further by Rudi Koertzen taking an age with a third umpire decision.

Eventually, it was over – but not before a good 40 minutes between the match finishing and the presentation ending with the trophy being handed to Ponting. A ridiculous ending to any final, let alone one which saw the most lethal team in tournament history crowned world champions.

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Thankfully, Gilchrist’s brilliant blitzkrieg of an innings gave that World Cup and its final something worthy to be remembered by.