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The Electronic Telegraph Triangular Series: Gilchrist's 154 raises the tempo
By Mark Nicholas in Melbourne - 8 February 1999

A FABULOUS innings by Adam Gilchrist and a spirited, flamboyant reply by the Sri Lankan openers, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Avishka Gunawardena, gave a dead Carlton and United series match considerable fascination for the 35,000 crowd at the MCG yesterday.

The home team's total was the highest in limited-overs internationals in Australia and they were good value for their 43-run win. Sri Lanka, though they have not qualified for the finals, fly home today with their heads held high having played rather better cricket since those unsavoury days in Adelaide a fortnight ago than they managed before.

Another World Cup is not beyond them if their bowlers can rediscover the discipline of three years ago. There is enough batting to frighten any opposition and Mahela Jayawardene, a wonderfully natural cricketer, has been their find of the tour.

Sanath Jayasuriya, who broke a wrist in Perth, reckons he will be playing again in six weeks and Aravinda de Silva says his hip injury is coming good, though slowly. If one of the young seamers, Rajira Perera or Nayan Zoysa ideally, can make an impression then they are worth a bob for a semi-final slot. After that, of course, anything goes.

On their form of the last four matches, Australia would appear to be a shoo-in for a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Batsmen are coming good at the same time and the bowlers always seem to have enough in reserve for the crunch points.

Gilchrist's knock was something to behold. His runs came in just 129 balls and included 14 fours and four sixes. He bettered Dean Jones' highest score by an Australian in a one-day game, bettered Viv Richards' highest score at Melbourne in a one-day game and was only four short of David Gower's 158 at the Gabba 16 years ago, which is the highest score made in Australia in international one-day cricket.

Gilchrist is bound to excite the crowds in England and, with Mark Waugh at his side, Australia have a formidable opening pair. Only Muttiah Muralitharan stood in their way yesterday and when he limped off with a recurrence of his groin injury, having extracted Waugh and Brendon Julian in quick succession, the gates were opened for an Australian onslaught.

Gunawardena and Kaluwitharana raced to a partnership of 145 in less than 20 overs, but when they followed each other back to the dressing-room the impetus was lost and the heat returned to a tired-looking middle order. Shane Lee unleashed his best bowling for his country and when he cleaned up de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga in quick succession the deal was all but done.

Australia meet England in the first of the best-of-three finals in Sydney on Wednesday. Clearly and justifiably they start as favourites. England have lost four of their last five matches in this competition and have Darren Gough and Neil Fairbrother still doubtful after little improvement in their hamstring conditions. How galling it would be for Gough, after his splendid tour, if he were unable to play.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk