Bridgetown, April 28 (AP): Adam Gilchrist scored a 72-ball century in the rain-affected World Cup final against Sri Lanka, leading the defending champion to 281 for 4 in 38 overs.
But Sri Lanka struck back after a jittery start, piling up 102 for 1 after 16 overs.
Lanka lost Upul Tharanga for 7 but Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara scored at over a run a ball to take the fight to the Australian camp.
Gilchrist’s 104-ball innings, containing 13 fours and eight sixes, was the highest individual score in a final, bettering his captain Ricky Ponting’s 140 not out against India four years ago.
Putting together the best partnership seen in a World Cup final, Gilchrist tormented Sri Lanka’s bowlers, while opening partner Matthew Hayden was content to give his partner the strike in a 172-run stand.
Ponting scored 37 and Shane Watson 3. Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke were not out at 23 and 8.
Gilchrist was dropped twice, first a hard caught and bowled chance for Dilhara Fernando when he was on 31 and then by wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara the ball after he reached his century.
Gilchrist and Hayden made the most of some loose bowling by left-armer Chaminda Vaas to get away to a good start.
The match was reduced from 50 to 38 overs a side after showers delayed the start of play for two and 3/4 hours.
Seeking to become the first team to win the title for the third time in a row, Australia won the toss and chose to bat first on a Kensington Oval wicket that appeared to offer few problems for the batsmen. Three bowlers in each team were allowed eight overs and two a maximum of seven.
Pace bowler Lasith Malinga made an excellent start, finding a near-perfect length that pinned the openers back. His opening four-over spell, while wicketless, cost only six runs.
The experienced Australian openers made the most of the opening powerplay, chipping over the crowded infield. Hayden was not timing the ball too well at first but gained in confidence as Australia moved to 46-0 after 10 overs.
In the 11th, Gilchrist offered Dilhara Fernando a stiff catch from his own bowling, but the Sri Lankan could not hold on to the low drive.
Fernando, kept in the side despite an erratic semi-final performance, paid the price immediately as Gilchrist hit him for four, four and six.
Fernando was smashed for 29 runs off three overs, including 19 from the 15th, and spinner Muttiah Muralidharan was brought into the attack to staunch the flow of runs. His first over went for just three runs and spinner Tillekeratne Dilshan joined the attack in the 13th over.