Sri Lanka's first Test victory in England
comes solely due to an inspirational performance by Muralitharan. His 16 for 220 is the fifth-best analysis in Tests at the time; his 9 for 65 in England's second innings is seventh best on the all-time list. His seven wickets in the first innings, however, have cost him 155 out of a solid total of 445. But Sanath Jayasuriya's double and Aravinda de Silva's 152 give them a 146-run lead. Murali picks up two wickets before stumps on the fourth day, but a draw seemed the most realistic result. But "realistic" is what Murali isn't; on a wearing pitch, he casts a spell on the batsmen. England have no answer to his wiles, and one by one they succumb. Only Alec Stewart's run-out prevents Murali from picking up all 10 wickets in an innings. Sri Lanka are set 36 to win, and they knock them off in five overs in the last hour of the Test.
6 for 87 and 7 for 84 v South Africa, Galle, 2000
Sri Lanka pile up 522 to lay an ideal platform for Murali to unveil his new weapons against South Africa
. He bamboozles the South Africans on a dry and cracked pitch with his big-spinning offbreak, the doosra and the top-spinner. He takes 6 for 87 as South Africa are bowled out for 238, and Daryl Cullinan, who scores a skilful 114, admits: "I could have been out three or four times. He's unique." South Africa are made to follow on, and Murali repeated his magic. He runs through the last seven wickets, and becomes the sixth bowler to dismiss all 11 batsmen over two innings of a Test.
4 for 77 and 6 for 71 v Pakistan, Peshawar, 1999-00
Pakistan are comfortably placed at 154 for 3, in response to Sri Lanka's 268
in the first innings. Enter Murali who triggers a collapse by dismissing Younis Khan. Pakistan go on to lose their last seven wickets for 45 runs, giving Sri Lanka a first-innings lead of 69. Chasing 294, Pakistan get off to a solid start with their openers adding 59, but Murali once again dismisses Shahid Afridi and Inzamam-ul-Haq in quick succession. Yousuf Youhana defies Sri Lanka with a gritty 88, but Murali dismisses him and Waqar Younis of consecutive balls to end the fourth day. On the final morning Sri Lanka need just nine balls to pick up the final two wickets; Murali dismisses the last man Arshad Khan to finish with 6 for 71 in the second innings.
7 for 30 v India, Sharjah, 2000
With Sri Lanka defending 294,
Sachin Tendulkar is the only man who stands between them and victory, and once Murali has him caught for 51, he knifes through the rest of the batting order. India collapse from 99 for 2 to 129 for 6, with Robin Singh becoming Murali's 200th ODI wicket. He takes 4 for 21 in his first spell of seven overs, and ends the resistance posed by Hemang Badani and Vijay Dahiya with a double-wicket maiden in his second. His 7 for 30 beats Aqib Javed's record for best bowling in an ODI.
5 for 9 v New Zealand in Sharjah, 2002
New Zealand have made a brisk start to their innings, reaching 83 for 2 in Murali-less 15 overs. He snares Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris and Chris Nevin in his first spell, giving away nothing. Matthew Sinclair and Chris Harris stage a recovery, but Murali dismisses both in consecutive overs during his second spell. He finishes with astonishing figures of 10-3-9-5,
and it is only after they see his back that New Zealand recover to 218 for 8, a target that proves 11 runs too much for Sri Lanka.
4 for 54 and 6 for 81 v West Indies, Kandy, 2001-02
After both the sides fare equally miserably with the bat in their first innings, the second Test
of the series is a one-innings showdown. Sri Lanka's batsmen recover from the dismal first innings to set West Indies a target of 378. Chaminda Vaas has torn a hamstring and cannot bowl, but that allows Murali to be introduced as early as the ninth over. The wily mix of offspin and doosras proves too much for West Indies as a string of batsmen are bowled, trapped lbw, or caught at the wicket. Murali needs only 16.2 overs to take 8 for 46, and bowls Sri Lanka to victory by 240 runs.
3 for 62 and 8 for 70 v England, Trent Bridge, 2006
Murali's initial impact on the third Test,
which Sri Lanka need to win to draw the series, is not with the ball. Sri Lanka have been reduced to 169 for 9 after winning the toss, but Murali strikes a feisty 33 off 29 balls to prop them to 231. A collective Sri Lankan bowling effort, in which Murali takes 3 for 62, bowls England out for 229 in the first innings. Sri Lanka bat solidly the second time around, and set England 322 to chase. Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss give England a strong chance of victory by adding 84 for the first wicket, but then Trescothick fails to read Murali's doosra and is bowled, beginning a passage of play when Murali takes 8 for 26 in 105 balls. Strauss is caught at slip, Pietersen at short-leg, and England begin to crumble swiftly. Murali picks up the first seven wickets before Chamara Kapugedera denies him a shot at all 10 by running out Matthew Hoggard. Murali adds one more to his tally, to finish with 8 for 70, and former England captain Nasser Hussain, now a television commentator, declares that "there is no shame in being bowled out by a genius".
3 for 41 v India, Trinidad, 2007
Although 3 for 41 are not the numbers that are associated with a great Murali spell, this spell against India in a crucial group match
of the World Cup is mind-boggling to watch. The Sri Lankan fast bowlers begin their defence of 254 well by reducing India to 44 for 3, but Virender Sehwag threatens to stage a fightback. Murali takes center-stage, pitching his doosras outside leg stump, and audaciously trying to bowl them around their legs. The Indians play him nervously; Sehwag edges an offbreak to slip, and Dhoni walks after being hit on the pad by a top spinner, and the game is up.