Leading article: Old spice

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The Independent Online

Yesterday was a day of history and drama in the world of Test cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan off-spinner, became the first bowler to take 800 Test wickets. And it was on the very final day of his Test career in Galle against India. If Murali had not dismissed the Indian tail-ender Pragyan Ojha, he would have been for ever stranded on 799.

It is a phenomenal achievement. The bowler with the next highest haul of wickets is the great Australian Shane Warne on 708. And Murali reached his total in 12 fewer Tests. Quite simply, no one comes near the Sri Lankan as a wicket-taker.

Before this match Murali explained that he is retiring because "I've played for 19 years, I'm getting tired and getting old". At 38, Murali is certainly no spring chicken. But sporting careers are getting longer these days. The brilliant Jamaican-born sprinter Merlene Ottey will compete in the European Athletics Championship in Barcelona next week at the age of 50. Her first major championship was the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

It seems unlikely that the 800-wicket record is going to be broken. But if it ever does come under threat, could Murali do a Merlene and come back? A frightening thought for batsmen everywhere.

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