Muralitharan leads Sri Lankato historic win

Sri Lanka crushed South Africa by an innings and 15 runs in three and half days in the first Test of the three-match series here yesterday. South Africa had never lost to Sri Lanka and this was only their third innings defeat since returning to international cricket.

Sri Lanka crushed South Africa by an innings and 15 runs in three and half days in the first Test of the three-match series here yesterday. South Africa had never lost to Sri Lanka and this was only their third innings defeat since returning to international cricket.

South Africa's chief tormentor was the off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who finished with match figures of 13 for 171 - the fourth 10-wicket haul of his career. Murali's figures were the best against South Africa since Clarrie Grimmett took 14 for 199 for Australia at Adelaide in 1931-32.

South Africa, who were dismissed for 238 in the first innings in reply to Sri Lanka's 522, were all out for 269, with tea still 70 minutes away, as Muralitharan ran through the batting again taking 7 for 84.

An eighth-wicket stand of 70 between Jonty Rhodes, who top scored with an unbeaten 63, and Nicky Boje only delayed the inevitable. Muralitharan changed ends and trapped Boje lbw for 35 before wrapping up the innings by bowling Paul Adams and Makhaya Ntini off successive deliveries.

South Africa started the day at 112 for 2, but slid to 229 for 7 at lunch. The leg-spinner Upul Chandana began the South African collapse when he had Jacques Kallis caught at short fine leg for 40 in the 10th over of the day. Seven balls later Muralitharan dismissed the first-innings century maker, Darryl Cullinan, for 12 when Russel Arnold brought off a brilliant one-handed catch diving across the pitch from silly mid-off.

Lance Klusener and Mark Boucher fell cheaply to Muralitharan before Shaun Pollock helped Jonty Rhodes to add 30 for the seventh wicket. Pollock was caught off bat and pad by Arnold off Muralitharan for 12.

Nicky Boje and Rhodes held out until lunch but by then the writing was on the wall for the South Africans who have a week to gather themselves before the second Test on Sunday in Kandy.

* Hansie Cronje, the disgraced former South African captain, has told of how he was close to suicide in the wake of the match-fixing scandal which ruined his career. "I open my eyes and wonder how I am going to get through the day. Yes, there were dark moments when I wondered if it was still worth living," Cronje revealed in a newspaper interview published yesterday.

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