Murali's record safe, says Warne
Shane Warne does not fancy his chances of surpassing Muttiah Muralitharan's world bowling record - not this week, not ever - and has tipped his long-time Sri Lankan spin rival to finish with a possibly unassailable 1000 Test scalps.
Warne told reporters in tropical Cairns, venue of Friday's second and final Test against Sri Lanka, that he expected fast bowlers to dominate the match, just as they did during Australia's 149-run victory at Darwin.
"Its probably doubtful that I'm going to take eight wickets given the history of this wicket," he said. "It generally suits the quicks a lot more than spinners." He rated Cairns the second fastest pitch in Australia, after Perth.
Warne is currently sitting on 520 wickets, one more than the former West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh but seven behind Murali. "Hopefully," he said modestly, "I get in a situation where the quicks get a few early ones and I come on and take a few cheap ones at the end."
Terry Jenner, Warne's good mate and old mentor, agreed that Murali's record looks a long way away. "Eight is a very high tally unless it's a spinner's pitch," Jenner told The Age newspaper. "It would be a lovely bonus if he happened to get eight but it would be a hell of a task."
Both Jenner and Warne are convinced that Cairns offers his one and only chance at reaching No. 1. Murali, who is sitting out this series because he is unhappy with his treatment by Australian fans and authorities, is expected to play two Tests against South Africa in August.
Then, on the same day that Warne returns to the Test crease in November, Murali is scheduled to begin a new series against Bangladesh, giving him ample opportunity to build a sizeable lead.
"I don't think anyone is going to get a chance once Murali gets back playing or decides to play against anyone else - unless he's going to get heckled," said Warne, with a gentle dig at his fellow spin legend.
"I'm not sure where he's going to play next [but] when he plays he takes that many wickets. He's going to get numbers nine, 10 and 11 out every single time he plays and get a few in the top order. He's going to get seven or eight wickets a game, so if he plays for another four or five years he's going to take another 400 to 500 wickets. That's about 1000 wickets, I presume."
Warne took only three wickets at Darwin - all tailenders - and bowled almost entirely, and uncharacteristically, without menace. But his preparation had been hindered by a broken hand, and he was initially not expected to play at all.
He admitted yesterday that he bowled too many bad balls. But he maintained: "I've got the wood on the Sri Lankans ... they were obviously just trying to survive. They either block it or they try to slog you."
Recent history at least gives Warne a shot at Murali's record. In his previous 11 Tests, before Darwin, he had bewitched 81 wickets - or 7.36 a game - in his purplest patch in years.