Spinner within touching distance of rival's record July 2, 2007

Murali set to overtake Warne in Australia

Cricinfo staff

Old foes: Off the field Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan enjoy each other's company © Getty Images

Muttiah Muralitharan says "winning the series" will be his main focus on the tour of Australia in November, but he is also keen on becoming Test cricket's most successful bowler. His tally of 683 wickets leaves him 25 short of Shane Warne's record of 708.

Murali will play in two more matches against Bangladesh in the ongoing home series, and he could head to Australia within touching distance of Warne's mark. Warne retired from internationals at the end of the Ashes in January.

"I am looking forward to playing in the Test matches and maybe it [the record] will happen there, but the main focus is winning the series, which we have not done in Australia," Muralitharan told AFP. Murali has confirmed his availability for the matches in Brisbane from November 8 and Hobart from November 16.

Murali has had a controversial relationship with Australia ever since he was called for throwing by the umpire Darrell Hair in the 1995 Boxing Day Test. Four years later, Ross Emerson also called him in an ODI at Adelaide. When the Sri Lankans walked off the field after the second incident, only an intervention by the respective boards and the ICC saved the tour.

He has also had to endure some rough treatment from the crowds in reaction to these on-field episodes. Murali had decided against touring Australia in the 2004 after John Howard, the Australian prime minister, labelled him a "chucker".

"I was disappointed with what the Australian prime minister said," he said ahead of the second Test against Bangladesh which starts on Tuesday. Muralitharan was well received in Australia during the tsunami fund-raising match at the MCG in 2005 and returned later in the year for the Super Series.