ICL: Indian Cricket League

Sri Lanka build lead on Murali’s record day


muraliGiven the twists and turns witnessed at Kandy over the last three days it would be foolish to predict the outcome of this Test, but Sri Lanka fought back impressively to wipe out England’s hard-earned 93-run lead and they hold the advantage of bowling last. Muttiah Muralitharan’s hunt for his 709th wicket ended midway through a frustrating morning when he bowled Paul Collingwood, then another of Sri Lanka’s greats, Sanath Jayasuriya, made a statement of his own with a flamboyant 78 before confirming that this will be his final Test.

Muralitharan will probably play on until his legs drop off, and 1000 wickets is a realistic aim, which would leave him virtually untouchable at the top, but rumours were abound that Jayasuriya was about to call time on his Test career. He received a semi-hug from Kumar Sangakkara as he left the field after giving the crowd a snapshot of what made him Sri Lanka’s most destructive batsman of his generation. His 106-ball innings included six boundaries off James Anderson’s fifth over, only the second time the feat has been achieved in a six-ball over during a Test, with Matthew Hoggard the other member of an ignominious club.

The way England’s tail hung around and Sri Lanka batted during the second two sessions confounded expectations around the pitch, which didn’t show much deterioration. However, chasing anything over 200 will be an almighty test so the lead is already growing towards worrying proportions from Michael Vaughan’s point of view. Muralitharan admitted “the pressure is off” now the world record is his, and a relaxed Murali in the final innings is an even more menacing proposition.

There was less swing when England began bowling for a second time shortly before lunch. Hoggard appeared to struggle with a lower-back problem, but didn’t shirk his task and continued to clock up the hard yards. The Sri Lanka openers learnt from their first-innings mistakes and played watchfully during the early exchanges, then Jayasuriya flicked a switch - as he has done so often - to dispatch Anderson’s fifth over for six boundaries. He was close to being caught at slip from the second of them, when his flashing drive couldn’t be hauled in by Ian Bell, as his fifty came off 62 balls. To Anderson’s credit he responded with a maiden in his next over to Jayasuriya, but the momentum was moving back Sri Lanka’s way.

Vandort was almost invisible by comparison, but a useful foil to Jayasuriya’s aggression. He had one aberration when, out of nowhere, he tried to reverse sweep Panesar but the ball brushed the arm guard not glove. Panesar was more confident bowling at Vandort, but struggled to put together a string of maidens as the batsmen rotated strike.

Hoggard went into off-cutter mode, which has brought him previous success on slow surfaces, and broke the opening stand of 113 by trapping Jayasuriya in front of leg stump, but not before his Test average had edged back above 40. Although Vandort’s painstaking 143-ball 49 ended moments before the light closed in, with Bell diving a long way to his left at first slip, Sangakkara was again at ease as he reached 30.

However, the fact that Sri Lanka are in a strong position almost feels like a bonus for the home support. They turned up for one reason alone in the morning and the expectation was that Muralitharan would reach his milestone early. But after yesterday’s rain he was made to wait again, until his 10th over of the day - and his second spell - to finally move ahead of Shane Warne. Collingwood was the man who will go down in history as Muralitharan’s 709th victim when he lost his off stump for a vital 45.

Muralitharan’s agonising wait seemed to consume Sri Lanka who let the match drift. England’s lower order had been described as four No. 11s, but Sidebottom provided Collingwood with outstanding support. Mahela Jayawardene opted for the new ball and Muralitharan was given a rare break from bowling duties to leave the crowd in suspense. Lasith Malinga broke the 57-run stand and Muralitharan was soon back at the bowling crease.

It took him three more balls and after waiting what felt like an age for the record, Muralitharan’s 710th wicket was an easier affair as Hoggard was stumped trying to sweep. He led his team off, holding the ball aloft, and immediately began what will become a stream of interviews and presentations over the coming days and weeks. For the rest of the afternoon he sat contently in the pavilion, as the batsmen set about giving him a total to defend. Despite the attempts of others to steal the limelight, this is Murali’s match and his part is far from over.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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