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March 16, 2004
Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his hometown, snapped up 4 for 48 and brought up the 500-wicket landmark when he bowled Michael Kapsprowicz through the gate with an offbreak that spun sharply back through the gate. Muralitharan's contribution helped Sri Lanka bowl out Australia for 120, a record low against them.
Muralitharan will now race with Shane Warne (501 wickets) to Courtney Walsh's 519-wicket world-record. Both bowlers may not be able to attain it in this series, although there is an outside chance that they could overhaul it. So Muralitharan looks destined to break the world record during Sri Lanka's two-Test tour to Zimbabwe in April.
Hashan Tillakaratne praised Muralitharan before the second Test: "Murali is a great cricketer and a great team-man. He has done Sri Lanka proud and won so many matches for us. I don't know where we would be were it not for his bowling."
Muralitharan, the only Tamil in the Sri Lanka team and the son of a successful biscuit manufacturer, first played for Sri Lanka against Australia in 1992, taking three wickets in his first Test. His career was later plagued by controversy after being called for throwing on tours to Australia in 1995-96 and 1998-99.
But although his unique bowling still attracts suspicion in some quarters, he was cleared by the ICC after extensive, high-tech biomechanical analysis by three separate research institutes, including the University of Western Australia and the University of Hong Kong.
Those studies concluded that his helicopter-wristed and locked-elbow action produced the "optical illusion" of throwing and did not contravene the game's laws. Muralitharan has a congenital deformity that prevents him from fully straightening his arm and a super-flexible wrist which is responsible for generating prodigious spin.
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