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Sri Lanka v Australia, 2nd Test, Kandy, 1st day

Murali: 'I'm aiming for 650'

Charlie Austin

March 16, 2004

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Muttiah Muralitharan: ecstatic, but unsated © Getty Images
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Muttiah Muralitharan has set his sights on further glories, after becoming the third bowler in Test history to reach the 500-wicket mark, on the opening day of the second Test against Australia at Kandy.

"To be the third man after Shane Warne and Courtney Walsh to take 500 wickets is something special," said Murali, who was even more pleased to have achieved the feat against the world champions, Australia, and on his home ground at Kandy. "I now want to play until the 2007 World Cup, so I can play another 25 to 30 Tests and can reach 650 wickets.

Seventeen wickets fell on the first day, although Murali was adamant the pitch was not to blame. "The 17 wickets did not fall because of the pitch but because of good bowling and bad batting," he insisted. "It's evenly poised and whoever holds the pressure will win the game."

"It was a lively wicket after the rain and both teams struggled on it," added John Dyson, Sri Lanka's coach. "Australia had to decide whether to try to survive or take the attack to the opposition. It was a difficult decision to make. I admire their courage for trying to take the initiative away from the bowlers."

Dyson went on: "The day is even. Neither team did any better than the other. We will have to go out there and play hard cricket now. Even if we do get a lead tomorrow we now have to bowl and bat really well in the second innings."

He was quick to praise his bowlers for their efforts. "It's a fantastic achievement," he said of Murali's landmark. "He's a great trainer, a great thinker about the game and a great performer. I hope he goes on to take another two or three hundred wickets.

"I am really pleased for [Nuwan] Zoysa," added Dyson. "He bowled tremendously on his return to the team. [Chaminda] Vaas also did a great job, but we expect that from him."

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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