Muttiah Muralitharan has achieved so much with the ball that it’s a bit hard to keep track of the numbers. Murali was Man of the Match for the 19th time in his career, and picked up his 64th and 65th five-wicket innings hauls and his 21st ten-for in a match. And this one, he said, was one of the best performances of a glittering career.
“When we played India last time at home (2001), Sachin and Laxman weren’t there. I got eight wickets in the first innings, we got 600 runs in the first innings then also and won by an innings,” Murali said, recalling the final Test of the last tour.
“But this one was different because two spinners bowling in tandem and getting 19 wickets between us. It was a satisfying moment for us because the wicket was very good. We got 600, our players played very well and they attacked properly. Anil and Harbhajan are dangerous spinners; we had our plans and played according to them. Once you have 600 runs, 400 is a lot to avoid the follow on.”
Murali had a pat on the back for Mendis, who returned the best bowling figures for a Sri Lankan debutant. “He is the most talented spinner I have bowled alongside. With us bowling together, the runs weren’t coming. The batsmen had do something to get the runs. They committed mistakes and that’s why we got wickets.” Murali, humble as ever, added, “When I started my career, I had just the off-spin, and I had bigger turn. He has more variations. That’s difficult for the batsmen. If he keeps his head calm and keeps performing, he will take a lot of wickets. He is not just an ordinary bowler, he is a wicket-taker. It will help the team win more matches, specially against Asian countries who play spin well.
“I want to play one-day cricket till the World Cup. Now that Ajantha has arrived, I think I can play Tests for a few more years. Bowling 50 overs in an innings is very hard. If I can bowl only 30-35 overs and he can bowl more than me, my job will become easier.”
Mendis, speaking through Mahela Jayawardene who translated from Sinhala, said, “It was obviously a fantastic moment for me. To bowl alongside Murali helped me a lot, specially to get advice from him along the way. The pressure Murali created gave me opportunities to pick up wickets. I am very happy with the start to my career”
Mendis, who said Rahul Dravid’s wicket was the one he cherished the most, said the presence of seniors helped him. “I had the seniors helping me, especially Murali bowling from the other end and the advice that he gave me. I didn’t feel any nerves because it was just another game for me.”