Australia had batted India out of the 2003 final. They batted Sri Lanka out of the World Cup final in 2007 as well. The difference was that on this occasion it was a scintillating one-man show. If you consider that Matthew Hayden was overshadowed to the extent that he managed just 38 runs in a mammoth 172-run opening stand, then the other man must have played an awesome innings. Indeed he did, and that other man was Adam Gilchrist. That partnership came off 22.5 overs, and Hayden got his runs off 55 balls.
Rain delayed the start to the extent that it was turned into a 38-overs-a-side game. The first two overs from Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga produced two runs each. That was just the look-in that Gilchrist needed. He clipped Vaas in the third over to the long-leg boundary for a four and lofted the next delivery over long-on for a six.
At the end of the first Powerplay after 10 overs, Australia were 46 for no loss with no hint of the carnage that was to follow. In the very next over, Gilchrist slammed consecutive deliveries from Dilhara Fernando for 2 fours and a six on the on-side. His fifty came off 43 balls. He then blasted the first and last balls of the 15th over bowled by Tillakaratne Dilshan for two huge sixes. If you add five wides down the leg-side and a couple of singles, it was a total of 19 runs from the over.
Fernando bore the brunt again as Gilchrist slammed him over long-on for a six and on-drove the next ball to the boundary. Muttiah Muralitharan did not escape either as Gilchrist swept him into the stands behind mid-wicket. He raced to his century off 72 balls - fastest in a World Cup final and third-fastest overall at the time - with a sizzling shot off Malinga over mid-off to the ropes. He had plundered 8 fours and 6 sixes so far.
Vaas was next in line. Gilchrist pulled him ferociously to the pickets, after which he bowled a wide down the leg-side which disappeared across the boundary. The next ball was short and Gilchrist hit another four to fine-leg. Malinga was also not spared as Gilchrist rocketed two successive boundaries on either side of the wicket.
There was respite for Sri Lanka at last as Malinga had Hayden caught at cover. By then Gilchrist was on 119 off 83 balls. He turned his attention to Sanath Jayasuriya next, carting him over mid-wicket for a six, and gliding the next ball to the fine-leg boundary. Finally, he top-edged Fernando and was taken at mid-wicket.
Gilchrist’s 149 was the highest in a World Cup final, and the best by a wicketkeeper, coming off just 104 balls. His 8 sixes equalled the World Cup record then held by Ricky Ponting and Imran Nazir; he rocketed 13 fours besides. Everything else in this match paled in comparison. The partnership with Ponting realised 52 in 7.4 overs. Australia finished on 281 for four in their 38 overs.
Sri Lanka threatened only when Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara hammered 116 in 17.4 overs for the second wicket. Wickets then tumbled regularly and by the time the 36th over ended with Sri Lanka on 215 for eight, it was almost pitch dark. The Duckworth-Lewis method decreed that Australia had won by 53 runs, completing a hat-trick of World Cup titles for the Kangaroos. Gilchrist’s belligerence had swept all else aside.
Australia 281 for 4 wickets (38 overs), Sri Lanka 215 for 8 wickets (36 overs, target 269)
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