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July 14, 2007
Muttiah Muralitharan became just the second bowler in history to reach 700 Test wickets as Sri Lanka rounded off a clean sweep of Bangladesh at Kandy, their 50th win in Tests. Bangladesh had to make 369 in order to get Sri Lanka to bat a second time but Murali picked up 6 for 54, his second consecutive five-for, as the hosts won the third Test by an innings and 193 runs.
Riding on a batting master-class from Sri Lanka's two most senior batsmen and with the fourth-day surface flattening out nicely, Murali spun a web around Bangladesh to seize his 20th ten-wicket haul. After a positive first session, where just two wickets fell, Bangladesh collapsed to 176 in no time, the last eight wickets going down for just 70 runs.
After Sri Lanka declared at their overnight score of 500 for 4 Bangladesh put up a 47-run opening stand between Shahriar Nafees and Javed Omar. Omar's feet were frozen against the moving ball yet he managed 22 before edging Lasith Malinga to slip. It had taken Sri Lanka nearly 73 minutes to get that breakthrough, but from then on the wickets came quicker.
Habibul Bashar once again failed, giving Murali the charge only to get bowled for 15. It was a reckless move from Bangladesh's most experienced batsman given that he and Nafees had put on 51 in just over ten overs.
Nafees, not included in the one-day side against Sri Lanka, played some good cover drives and sweeps during his third Test half-century. By far the most comfortable batsman, he got his front foot to the pitch, enabling him to dispatch anything slightly full into the gaps, and the back foot across to defend the shorter stuff. Nafees hooked one into the deep and it landed a few feet before the fielder, but when Malinga pitched short a second time he hammered him through midwicket for four. His 50 was raised off just 71 deliveries with another slog-sweep off Murali for four.
|But when Malinga returned and immediately had Tushar Imran (17) caught by Jayawardene at short midwicket, the focus turned to whether the master spinner could get to 700 wickets. A few tense moments followed as Malinga nearly had Shahadat Hossain a couple times, but the last two batsmen helped Murali get to the landmark in the space of three deliveries. The scenes at Kandy, his home ground, were spectacular and fitting for a bowler as consistent as Murali. He can now hope to break Shane Warne's record of most number of Test wickets - 708 - when Sri Lanka play their next Test series against Australia in November.|
After Bashar's untimely dismissal, Nafees and Mohammad Ashraful took Bangladesh to 106 for 2 when rain stopped play five minutes before lunch. But after the interval it was a one-sided affair. Murali struck in his second over after lunch, forcing Nafees to defend a quicker, flatter delivery on middle and leg and edge to Mahela Jayawardene at slip.
Four fielders hovered around Ashraful's bat as Murali bustled in and looked for sharp drift into the pads. Ashraful tried to paddle anything pitched outside leg stump, and a ten-run over against Murali showed his ability to use his feet. But he chose to play back to the wrong delivery - one that fizzed and spun back - and was struck above the knee roll in front of leg stump.
After that wicket Jayawardene immediately brought on Sujeewa de Silva, and the move worked like a charm. Mushfiqur Rahim failed to keep a drive down and gave a comfortable catch to point and Rajin Saleh didn't trouble the scorers at all, chasing one and edging low into Jayawardene's palms at second slip.
Murali continued to toss it up and Mashrafe Mortaza heaved one down long-on's throat to give him wicket number 698. But when Malinga returned and immediately had Tushar Imran (17) caught by Jayawardene at short midwicket, the focus turned to whether the master spinner could get to 700 wickets. A few tense moments followed as Malinga nearly had Shahadat Hossain a couple times, but the last two batsmen helped Murali get to the landmark in the space of three deliveries. The scenes at Kandy, his home ground, were spectacular and fitting for a bowler as consistent as Murali. He can now hope to break Shane Warne's record of most number of Test wickets - 708 - when Sri Lanka play their next Test series against Australia in November.
With the win, Sri Lanka completed a three-game sweep of Bangladesh, who have not won a Test since January 2005. On the basis of this Test, the two sides are trudging very different paths.
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