There are few things you can rely on these
days. I remember the good times, when wheat contracts were honest, Nationals
Senators could resist Peter Costello and David Boon voiced his own doll.

At least we can rely on one thing: when
Adam Gilchrist captains Australia, he lifts. Yesterday’s five-wicket defeat of Sri Lanka in Adelaide
was more than anything else a battle to adapt to crushing heat and a slower
pitch than Adelaide Oval curator Les Burdett has produced in years.

Having lost the toss and been sent out into
the scorching afternoon to field, Gilchrist kept his bowlers to a plan
discussed after seeing the pitch play slowly in the previous game: if pace
isn’t working, bowl slowly. It was a simple plan and it demonstrated the
versatility of Australia’s first-change bowlers Nathan Bracken and Andrew Symonds. Both
tried pace for an over before changing gear – Bracken to an entire spell of
slower cutters, Symonds to his creditable spinners. Between them and the
in-form Brad Hogg they restricted the Sri Lankans to the lowest score in Adelaide in a
decade.

More impressive was the Australian
run-chase which, though it must have frustrated an Adelaide crowd used
to fireworks, showed more discipline and patience than raw fire-power.
Gilchrist’s run-a-ball 34 was the only truly aggressive performance in an innings
where runs were gradually accumulated and even Symonds only picked up two
boundaries in his 32.

Though the game has been described
elsewhere
as tepid,
Gilchrist’s strategy worked where the now-traditional Australian “swing at
everything” routine could not have, demonstrating the important point that the
Australians can win games another way.

Gilchrist’s record as captain is as
impressive as it is brief. In the past five years he has lead Australia
in nine limited-overs matches and won eight, almost all of them after losing
the toss and chasing a total, by at least four wickets. As captain he averages
over 42, nine runs above his career average.

Adam Gilchrist will lead Australia
again on Sunday in Perth while Ricky Ponting rests, and given his record the chances of
another win are worth relying on.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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