Adam Gilchrist smashed 8 sixes in his double-hundred against South Africa © Getty Images
It was thought to be a match between two Test playing giants. However, apart from scoring the then fastest double-hundred on February 23, 2002 , Adam Gilchrist came close to winning a gold bar worth R1.3 million. Sudatta Mukherjee looks back to the day when Gilchrist missed the opportunity by a whisker.
This was the return series to the South African tour to Australia 2001-02. Steve Waugh won the toss in the first Test at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg and decided to bat on a surface that supported the batsmen.
About an hour into the match, Allan Donald removed opener Justin Langer. Ricky Ponting came into bat and was dismissed by Andre Nel. The Waugh twins followed as well, though Mark managed to secure a fifty by then. By the time Adam Gilchrist had walked out to bat, Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn had already scored centuries. But little did the South Africans know what was heading towards them.
Gilchrist started off slow. He hit a four after facing 11 balls. It took Gilchrist 89 balls to reach his fifty, after which he imploded, taking a mere 38 balls for his second fifty. He went on and on. He didn’t spare any bowler. He targeted Jacques Kallis, Nel, Nicky Boje, and poor Neil McKenzie in particular.
Gilchrist was in the mood of hitting big and hard. He went on to hit 5 sixes, 3 of them on the leg.
One of the gold companies of South Africa had installed an advertisement hoarding on the leg-side of the ground and if a six hit that hoarding, the batsman would have won R1,300,000. Now in his elements, Gilchrist started targeting that hoarding and in the 138th over of the first innings, he almost did it.
Neil McKenzie was the bowler. Gilchrist defended the first ball. He took two runs off the second ball. No run was scored on the third ball. He hit a four on the fourth ball towards the third man. He defended the fifth ball. When the sixth ball was delivered, Gilchrist slammed it towards the billboard.
Play was halted for some time. Gilchrist had missed the opportunity by a trifle. The commentators said he missed the chance as it went far. The Western Australian kept waving his hands helplessly, as if instructing the ball to hit the billboard; and when it finally landed, there was an ‘Aww’ disappointment not only on his face but even Mark Boucher who was keeping the wickets left a sigh.
Everyone on the ground was laughing about it. Gilchrist approached Rudi Koertzen to ask by how much he missed. He left another sigh. In the dressing room, Brett Lee left a sigh as he saw the replays.
Gilchrist went on to score to the fastest double-hundred afterwards. He slammed another 2 sixes off Boje but neither as close as the one which could have made him the owner of a R1.3 million gold bar.
Steve Waugh declared the first innings after Gilchrist reached his double-hundred. Australia had scored 652. It was a joyous innings — but at the same time one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the history of the sport as Allan Donald hobbled out of the Test arena for — unknowingly — the final time.
In response South Africa were bowled out for 159. Glenn McGrath and Lee took 3 wickets each. The hosts were forced to follow-on, and were bowled out cheaply again, this time for 133. McGrath registered his 16th five-wicket haul while Shane Warne picked up 4 wickets. Australia won the match by an innings and 360 runs. The visitors eventually won the series 2-1, losing the third Test at Durban.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)