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Magical Murali on Mt 800

cricket Updated: Jul 23, 2010 00:22 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Who? Muttiah Muralitharan.

When? 1.55 pm, Thursday.

Where? Galle International Cricket Stadium, 120 km south of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital.

What? History. Not because the greatest off-spinner bowled his last ball in Tests but because he broke the 800-wicket barrier.

How? Muralitharan, bowling from the Fort End, tosses one up to India’s last-man Pragyan Ojha. The southpaw takes a stride forward but the ball kisses the willow's edge and Mahela Jayawardene lunges at first slip to pouch it.

Yes, the unthinkable had happened. Murali’s last hurrah was anything but Bradmanesque. While The Don, needing four runs in his last innings to end with a batting average of 100, fell for a duck, Murali managed to scalp the eight wickets he needed to end with the astounding tally of 800 Test wickets.

India’s first Test against Sri Lanka was always going to be remembered for Murali’s farewell. But the manner in which Murali stamped his authority — with a five-for in the first innings and a wicket in the last over of the penultimate day to set up Sri Lanka’s victory — was a perfect summation of what he has done for nearly two decades.

The 101 minutes Tillakaratne Dilshan needed to complete the formalities of the chase, left fans desperately impatient, as the result was a foregone conclusion and they wanted one last glimpse of Murali.

The wait was worth it as Murali’s teammates carried him on their arms to give the spin wizard a lap of honour. It was a fitting farewell for a man who has shouldered the responsibility of being Sri Lanka’s leading wicket-taker, answered every critic of his bowling action in every manner that was asked, united a nation that was marred by war, and made the world take notice of a tiny island.

“I am not an emotional person,” insisted Murali at the end of the day, but he struggled to keep his calm during the long celebration that followed the match.

“In a way, frankly, I am happy that I have done it. That was the only thing I thought. I trained really hard. Even last week, I trained hard to play this match and take it very seriously,” said Murali. “I was very happy. God has given me everything. Eight wickets, victory, basically everything. This is one of the greatest moments in my life, retiring this way.

“(Curator Jayananda) Warnaweera gave a good farewell. He decorated the stadium in an unbelievable way. Still our motivation was to win. I am not an emotional person, but I get upset sometimes.”

But, more than those eight wickets, what mattered most to Murali was victory. And like he’s done all his career, he worked relentlessly towards clinching India’s final five wickets. The 38-year-old bowled 27 of Sri Lanka's 57 overs on the day, the only breather being whenever his skipper asked him to change ends.

“Nothing more is left for me to achieve. You should understand that,” Murali said. “I have achieved everything in Test cricket and I thought this should be the end. I am very happy I am going this way.”

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