Aussies claim VB Series title

Centuries to openers Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich have guided Australia to a memorable nine-wicket victory in the third and decisive VB Series final against Sri Lanka at the Gabba.

With Gilchrist crashing 122 from 91 balls and Katich scoring an unbeaten 107, the home team easily surpassed its previous highest successful run chase at the Gabba of 235 (v West Indies in 2000-01) in reaching 1-267 in the 46th over in front of 26,139 fans.

Skipper Ricky Ponting deservedly hit the winning run to remain unbeaten on 28 along with Katich, while vice-captain Gilchrist was the obvious choice for man of the match after scoring his 14th one-day international ton.

In clinching its fifth VB Series title in the past six years, Australia also became only the fourth team to win the trophy after losing the first final, the most recent occasion when it came from behind to beat South Africa 2-1 in 1997-98.

It is also Australia's 14th one-day series win in the past 17 seasons - losing to the West Indies in the finals in 1992-93 and failing to make them in 1996-97 and 2001-02 as Pakistan and South Africa were respective champions.

In the second record-breaking partnership in two games for Australia, Gilchrist and Katich steered the home side towards victory with an opening stand of 196 in 137 minutes off 194 balls.

It was the highest partnership against Sri Lanka and the third-highest for an opening stand in Australian one-day history - with only David Boon and Geoff Marsh's 212 against India at Jaipur in 1986-87 a greater union.

Andrew Symonds may not have been needed with the bat but was named player of the series after making several half-centuries, claiming plenty of wickets and also taking some brilliant catches.

The visitors though missed an opportunity to remove Gilchrist when Sanath Jayasuriya dropped him on 20 at deep mid-on. Jayasuriya ran back with the flight of the ball, but could not hold on with both hands as he fell backwards onto the Gabba turf and the ball spilled free.

Gilchrist reached his 14th one-day hundred off only 67 balls - his second 50 coming off only 29 balls - and his innings included 13 fours and four sixes.

It was the vice-captain's fastest one-day century and the quickest by any player on Australian soil, beating his previous best effort by six balls which also came this season, against the ICC World XI in Melbourne in October.

Spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who conceded a record 99 runs from 10 wicketless overs on Sunday, claimed 1-50 off 10 overs and eventually clean bowled Gilchrist as he charged down the pitch attempting another six.

Katich too had a narrow escape when he avoided being run out by centimetres in the 16th over after taking off for a quick single and being sent back - making it home just in time.

Earlier Sri Lanka won the toss and piled up a challenging 9-266 from its 50 overs, with Mahela Jayawardene top-scoring with 86 from 91 balls, including eight fours.

He was ably supported by half-centuries to Kumar Sangakkara (59) and Russell Arnold (76), who continued his good form from the second final in Sydney.

The visitors recovered after being 2-28 when Jayawardene joined Sangakkara at the crease, the pair sharing an even 100-run partnership before Jayawardene then combined with Arnold for a fourth-wicket stand of 76.

Though a handful of opportunities were missed, the Sri Lankan innings was punctuated by three brilliant catches to Symonds (two) and skipper Ponting.

The Queenslander removed Sri Lankan skipper Marvan Atapattu (seven) with a superb one-handed grab leaping off the ground at cover off Bracken then followed up that effort to remove Chamara Kapugedera (nine) by diving full length after running in from the cover boundary with the sun in his eyes to catch the ball just centimetres above the ground.

Symonds was soon upstaged by his captain as Arnold, in the quest for quick runs at the end, lofted Bracken over mid-on and Ponting ran back with the flight of the ball and virtually off balance in the style of a football goalkeeper leapt up with one hand to grab an outstanding catch.

It will surely appear in future highlight packages and rivals the famous catch of John Dyson on the SCG boundary in the early 1980s.

In their last five overs the tourists lost 4-28 including two run outs in the final over, with Fernando remaining one not out.

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