Muralitharan: 800 all out

Sri Lankan spinner bows out in remarkable style by taking 800th Test wicket from his last ball
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The Independent Online

So much for the death of Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan, one of the game's modern titans, played his final remarkable hand yesterday, taking his 800th Test wicket with his last ball in Test cricket in Galle to guide Sri Lanka towards victory over India. At Headingley, meanwhile, Australia battled to stay in a tight contest against Pakistan, having been bowled out for 88 in their first innings on Wednesday.

Imran Khan, the great Pakistan all-rounder, was the latest to foresee Test cricket's demise this week, warning that the financial lure of Twenty20 will lead to more and more players choosing to avoid the five-day game.

There has never been a Twenty20 game, though, that could offer the sort of drama that Murali created with his last-ever ball in Test cricket, when he induced an edge from the Indian tail-ender Pragyan Ojha which was taken expertly by Mahela Jayawardene at slip. Murali has rarely been off centre stage during a career that has embraced glory and controversy but this was a special way to go even by his standards.

The Sri Lankan, nonetheless, played down his unique achievement afterwards. "Eight hundred is only a number. We wanted to get the wickets quickly. You never know in Galle with the weather, winning the match was the important thing," he said. "I wouldn't have minded if it [the record] didn't come. My only scare was when paceman Lasith Malinga had to go off the field."

The 38-year-old, whose final wicket was greeted with fireworks, refused to indulge in the moment. "I am not emotional... frankly I am happy I have done it [retired]," he said. "I have trained really hard, even last week I trained hard to play in this Test match and took it very seriously. I chose to finish my career at the end of the first Test because I know my knees are not going to last to bowl 50-60 overs [in a match any more]."

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