Australia clinch series

Australia has beaten the World XI by 55 runs to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the 3-match series. Built upon the foundation of an exuberant 103 (79) from Adam Gilchrist, Australia piled on 4/328 and victory was assured. The World XI started well, hitting at 8-per-over with Gayle 54 (48) and Sangakkara 61 (44) smashing the Australian bowling but when the match was tightened by the Australian bowlers and fielders, their total was never going to be enough. The World XI eventually finished with 273.

Australia opened the run-chase in great style as Adam Gilchrist decided today was a ‘Gilly-day’. Early in the innings, he powered the ball to all parts of the ground, treating the World XI’s bowlers with utter disdain, dismantling their attempts to dismiss him and making a mockery of their reputations. Spurred-on by his blazing start in the first match, Gilchrist compensated for not kicking-on by weathering an early Akhtar storm then switching his bat to ‘stun’. And stun he did with a succession of fleet-of-foot pulls and cuts, several clearing the fence. A sense of adventure caresses the soul when Gilchrist is in this sort of mood and he becomes the cricketing embodiment of Indiana Jones; adventurous, aggressive, swashbuckling. Gilchrist took a particular liking to the short offerings of Akhtar and Pollock and appeared unstoppable.

The introduction of his Ashes nemesis, Andrew Flintoff, did little to stem the flow of runs as Gilchrist decided to extract some revenge. In his ten deliveries at Gilchrist, he went for 20 runs as Gilchrist smacked short balls past point and even cheekily ran down the pitch to dispatch him down the ground. A sorry-looking Flintoff gave way to Muralidaran in the 12th over and Gilchrist greeted him by hoisting him twice into the stands over square-leg during his spell. Even the dismissal of Katich to a beautifully-pitched doosra for a very well compiled 47 did little to slow the run-rate. Gilchrist eventually brought up the fastest hundred by an Australian batsman off 73 deliveries before he perished attempting one big hit too many off Virender Sehwag. He finished with 103 off 79 deliveries and Australia had the perfect launching-pad for a huge score.

Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn ensured there was no let-up as Martyn pleasingly batted himself back into form with a series of sumptuous drives, cheeky cuts and inside-out shots through cover. Ponting was less subtle but just as effective and showed just how good a pitch it was by unleashing a couple of eye-catching front-foot pulls off Akhtar and Pollock. Ponting and Martyn were dismissed off successive deliveries which brought Symonds and Clarke to the crease. If it were possible, they increased the carnage wrought upon the hapless World XI bowlers by belting 52 off the last 5 overs of the innings as Australia finished with a massive 4/328.

Best of the bowlers for the World XI was Muttiah Muralidaran who took 1/43 off his 10 overs. Daniel Vettori also showed encouraging signs and was steady but highly disappointing were Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock with 1/64 off 8 overs and 0/49 off 8 overs respectively. Shoaib Akhtar tried hard but bowled far too short in the midst of the Gilchrist assault.

The World XI made a sensational start as first Sehwag with 21 off 15 deliveries and then Gayle took to Bracken and debutant Clarke in the midst of a good spell from Lee. A flurry of fours and a huge six ensured 21 came off a Brett Lee over and Gayle had hit the ‘go’ button. It really was an incredibly aggressive statement of intent from Gayle who powered to his 50 from only 39 deliveries and was threatening to do more, considering the rather brutal start. Kumar Sangakkara joined in the fun, showing his immense class and called into question the wisdom of the selectors who didn’t pick him for the Test side. He belted glorious lofted off-side boundaries from Clark and after bringing up the hundred in the 14th over, the World XI appeared that they were going to give the Australian’s massive total a run for it’s money.

The turning point of the match came in the 17th over of the innings as well-planned out cricket saw the end of Gayle who’d lost his earlier momentum upon passing 50 and was caught behind off Watson for 54 off 48 deliveries which included 8 fours and 1 six. From there, a combination of tight bowling and ordinary running between wickets saw three quick wickets fall as Sangakkara took a suicidal attempt at a run and was out for 61 off 44 deliveries which included 9 fours and 1 six. Quickly following was Brian Lara who was again caught at cover and next ball, Kallis was run-out by Ricky Ponting.

Dravid and Flintoff had some re-building to do and combined for a very healthy 63-run partnership to give the World XI hope. However, excellent spells from two of Australia’s bit-part players, Nathan Bracken and Stuart Clarke, ensured the fightback was hamstrung at every point. Bracken dismissed Flintoff and then two quick wickets from Clark made the run-chase impossible from that point and the formalities were completed when Bracken dismissed Akhtar, caught at deep cover.

Best of the bowlers was Nathan Bracken with 3/43 off 7.3 and Stuart Clark had a debut to remember after being massacred by Gayle then coming back strongly to finish with 2/55 off 9 overs. Shane Watson bowled tightly in the circumstances and is showing some very encouraging signs with his bowling as he bowled with good speed and consistently hit the seam to hurry onto the batsmen.

For the World XI, Chris Gayle’s early assault with Kumar Sangakkara just could not be maintained as, although at one stage they were hitting the ball at over 8-per-over, the required run-rate never dipped below 6-per over. Andrew Flintoff again batted solidly in a rescue mission but the Australian total was just too much and the Australian bowling too good in the end as they put the brakes on when it mattered.

So with one match still to play, Australia will take from this match encouraging form from their batsmen, solid performances from their newer players and a renewed sense of team and enthusiasm, their joy at winning apparent from the long team huddle at the taking of the last wicket. The World XI will be playing for pride and after this match, as was the case in the previous, there will be more than a few players who will be looking to atone for their rather lackadaisical approach to bowling and fielding. They’ll be hoping from more from Flintoff with the ball and Lara with the bat.

Score Summary

Australia 4/328 (50)
Adam Gilchrist 103 (128), Ricky Ponting 66 (72)
Muttiah Muralitharan 1/43 (10), Virender Sehwag 1/20 (3)

ICC World XI 273 (45.3)
Kumar Sangakkara 61 (44), Chris Gayle 54 (48)
Nathan Bracken 3/43 (7.3), Stuart Clark 2/55 (9)

Australia win by 55 runs.
Australia lead the three match series 2-0.

CricketWeb Player of the Match
Adam Gilchrist 103 (128)

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