St Valentine’s Day massacre

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 in Brisbane 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.

Man-of-the-match 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, who emerged from a troubled home summer and an under-achieving Ashes series in England, was finally out when he was bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan with his team well in command, needing only 71 runs for victory.

He finished the tri-series with 432 runs from nine innings at an average of 48.

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 for 107 including nine fours, with skipper Ricky Ponting on 28 when the target was reached at 267 for one.

Sri Lanka, who looked to have presented Australia with a challenging target after scoring 266 for nine, in the end were battered out of it by the ballistic Gilchrist.

Three batsmen scored half-centuries — Mahela Jayawardene 86 (91 balls), Russel Arnold 76 (71 balls) and Kumar Sangakkara 59 (85 balls) — to take advantage of winning the toss.

Sangakkara became the highest scorer of the tri-series with 469 runs at an average of 42,63, with Jayawardene completing the series with 425 at 38,63 after his sixth half-century.

The tourists recovered strongly after losing the wickets of experienced opener Sanath Jayasuriya (six off 12 balls) and skipper Marvan Atapattu (seven off 16 balls) 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 on his way to his fifth half-century of the series.

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).

Australian pace spearhead Brett Lee finished the finals’ series without taking a wicket in 28 overs after heading into the tournament with 15 wickets in the preliminaries. His 10 overs on Tuesday cost 58 runs.

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.

Sri Lanka won the opening match in Adelaide by 22 runs and Australia romped home by 167 runs in Sydney.

The last time a team came from losing the opening final in the Australian tri-series was in 1994 when Australia beat South Africa in the final two matches. – AFP



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