Gilchrist squashes Sri Lanka in lights-out effort
On April 28, 2007, a heaving crowd in Barbados witnessed one of the greatest ever World Cup performances
28 April 2016, 03:05 PM AEST
Aided by small boundaries, a flat deck and a squash ball nestled inside his left glove, Adam Gilchrist's 149 in the 2007 World Cup final remains the highest individual score in a tournament decider and one of the greatest ever innings on ODI cricket's biggest stage.
Against a Sri Lankan attack featuring cricket's most prolific bowler Muthiah Muralidaran and limited-overs gun Lasith Malinga, Gilchrist sent the white ball to all parts of the Kensington Oval, which was overflowing with fans praying for clear skies and a battle in Bridgetown.
Gilchrist normally needed no invitation to up the ante at the top of an ODI innings and with rain reducing the match to 38 overs a side, he took even less time to get his eye in.
Veteran left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas was the first to feel the wrath of hurricane Gilchrist, who made the threatening nearby storms appear nothing more than a cool breeze and a light sprinkle.
A four flicked behind square-leg followed by a heave over long-on for six forced wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara up to the stumps to prevent the Australian using his feet and making the length more to his liking.
The tactical change worked for a time, limiting the left-hander to two boundaries in the next seven overs, prompting a rash shot that pinged off his bat back to bowler Dilhara Fernando, who couldn't hold on to the thunderous drive.
Where there's thunder, there's lightning, and the next three balls bolted to or over the boundary, the third imperiously over long-on for his second six.
Spin stemmed the run-rate somewhat as both Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden changed gears to counter the slower pace and a spread field, but it wouldn't be long before the man who almost single-handedly changed the role of a wicketkeeper-batsman went again.
A brace of maximums undid the good work of Muralidaran and Tillakaratne Dilshan, the powerful left-handed combination racing to another opening century stand, brought up with a six just over the outstretched hand of long-off from the bowling of the returning - and very soon exiting - Fernando.
Owning more than two-thirds of the partnership, Gilchrist had another triple-figure milestone in the sights as he feasted on whatever Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene served up.
One last roll of the dice landed the way of strike-bowler Malinga, who earlier in the tournament had taken a double hat-trick against South Africa, to end what was fast becoming the greatest performance in a World Cup final.
Neither Malinga's slinging action nor the deadly changes of pace could deny Gilchrist his finest ODI century, a ton reached with a punch over the sprawling mid-off fielder to guarantee another page in cricket's history books and a hug from his hulking teammate so tight the jaws of life would have struggled to separate the pair.
Jubilant as ever in celebration, Gilchrist paid special attention to his raised left hand, pointing to the bulging outside corner of the glove that had commentators and fans alike wondering what could possibly be lodged inside.
Speaking after the game, where he was duly named player of the match, Gilchrist revealed it was in fact a squash ball, used to keep his bottom hand marginally off the bat, allowing for a lighter grip and more power.
Gilchrist's 149 was the second time he'd finished on that score representing his country, and despite the vast geographical differences between Hobart and Bridgetown, this performance was just as significant as the first.
The Bellerieve Oval rescue mission in 1999 alongside Justin Langer announced Gilchrist to the world in only his second match in a Baggy Green, with audacious stroke play, unrelenting optimism and a will to win drilled into him by his team's predecessors, the characteristics that would define his illustrious career.
Eight years later, it was the other half of Australia's most celebrated opening partnership that was out there in the middle as Gilchrist once again delivered when it mattered most.
Hayden, who finished with a relatively sedate 38 from 55 balls, stood proudly next to the man many believe to be the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman of all-time who had just delivered his country another World Cup crown.