Cricket: Muttiah `very proud'

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MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN was not surprised by his achievement after twice wrecking England's batting to set up the 10-wicket victory for Sri Lanka at The Oval.

The feats of the Surrey finger-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq on his home ground this season had already convinced Muralitharan that there would be plenty of wickets for him, too. "I thought beforehand when Saqlain was taking a lot of wickets here it would help me as well. I am very proud. Before I came here my ambition was to take five wickets in an innings in a Test match - so I thought I did quite well here," he said.

The off-spinner's captain Arjuna Ranatunga and his opposite number, Alec Stewart, hailed Muralitharan's outstanding performance .

"He is very difficult to play. You can never get on top of him. A lot of spinners you can use your feet or work around - but he is something special," said Stewart - the only England player not to lose his wicket to Muralitharan in the Test.

Muralitharan, however, was merely confirming his captain's expectations. "Murali is the main man. I have always rated him very, very highly and still think he is the best off-spinner in the world. We know he can spin it anywhere in the world, but he was really impressive in the way he was turning it," Ranatunga said.