End of an era, Murali signs off with 800 wickets

Zeecric Bureau

Galle: Sri Lankan spin maestro Muttiah Muralitharan became the first man on earth to claim 800 Test wickets in the history of the game. Murali on Thursday achieved the feat when he dismissed Pragyan Ojha with a perfect ball to mark his last Test with a record that no one on the planet had ever set before and one that may not be eclipsed anytime in the near future.

Murali took the last Indian wicket to help Sri Lanka bowl India out for 338. Sri Lanka now need 95 runs to win the Galle Test and take 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series.

Murali, who retires after this Test match, needed eight wickets before the match to achieve the landmark. With the Galle Test providing a perfect platform for his retreat, Murali did not succumb to the emotion of playing the last match, which played havoc to even a legend like Don Bradman.

It’s not an easy task, but Murali bowled beautifully and picked up 5 wickets in the first innings. It has been a great match for the legendary off-spinner who triggered an Indian batting collapse with a performance in the last match that will be etched in the memories of cricket lovers for the exhibition of great spin bowling, an art which is fast fading away in the age of T20 cricket.

Born in Kandy, Sri Lanka on April 17, 1972, Muralitharan is cricket`s greatest wicket-taker in both Test cricket and one-day internationals and one of the most successful bowlers in the game.

The legality of the 38-year-old off-spinner`s bowling action had split opinions but was cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1996 and again in 1999.

The eldest of four sons, Muralitharan began cricket as a medium pace bowler before switching to off-spin when he was 14 years-old. He made his Test debut aged 20 against Australia on August 28, 1992, claiming three wickets for 141 runs.

A year later he captured his first five-wicket haul in Tests against South Africa with figures of 5-104.

Against New Zealand in 1995 his 19 wickets in Sri Lanka`s 2-1 series victory proved his match-winning qualities on any surface.

On March, 16, 1997 he became the first Sri Lankan to reach 100 Test wickets. In January 1998, he took his first 10-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in the first Test.

In August that year, Muralitharan produced career best figures of 16-220 in a one-off Test against England.

On March 16, 2004 he became the fastest and youngest bowler to reach 500 wickets during the second Test against Australia in Kandy. Muralitharan had reached the landmark just four days after Australia`s Shane Warne had done so on the fifth day of the first Test.

Having tussled with Warne for the leading Test-wicket taker status in the following years, Muralitharan reclaimed the record in December 3, 2007 against England with his 709th wicket.