November 27, 2001

Hooper hails Muralitharan as off-spinner breaks more records

West Indian captain Carl Hooper hailed Muttiah Muralitharan as the world's best spinner after the 29-year-old had equalled Richard Hadlee's world record for the highest number of ten-wicket hauls in the second Janashakthi National Test at Kandy.

"In my mind there is no doubt that Muralitharan is the best spin bowler in the world," said Hooper, after Muralitharan had secured the series for Sri Lanka with match figures of 10 for 135.

Coach Roger Harper agreed: "Look at the statistics. Warne is taking four wickets per Test, but Muralitharan is taking well over five. He is the best."

The hill-country Tamil, son of a well-to-do confectioner, has now taken nine ten-wicket match bags in his 67-match career. New Zealand's Hadlee also has nine, but he played 19 more Tests. Muralitharan has now taken 371 wickets in 68 Test matches, overtaking Imran Khan (362) in Kandy.

Muralitharan's ten-wicket hail was his fourth in consecutive Tests. In August he took 11 for 196 to clinch the series against India, then 10 for 111 against Bangladesh and 11 for 169 in the first Test against West Indies. He is the first ever bowler to complete such a feat, surpassing Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett who took ten-wickets in his last three Tests against South Africa in 1935/6.

Speaking soon after the tension-strewn last hour in Kandy, when he had taken four wickets in 26 minutes to clinch victory for Sri Lanka with only 16 minutes to spare, he said: "I am really happy to get ten wickets in my home town. It's been a long time since I last did it against Zimbabwe four years ago."

Muralitharan felt Sri Lanka were in the box seat when they finished with 297 in their first innings. "This wicket was very difficult to bat on and I thought 297 was a match-winning total from the start," he said. "The ball was spinning, the old ball was reverse swinging and the outfield was very slow."

"We set them 322 because you never know what Lara, Hooper and Sarwan are going to do. Chris Gayle is also a dangerous opener and if he gets going then the 300 looks more like 150. The key was that we didn't want to lose. This has been a bogey ground for us recently."

He paid tribute to his erstwhile partner, Chaminda Vaas, who once again provided Muralitharan with the perfect foil. "I love bowling with Chaminda because he keeps it very tight," he said. "With pressure at both ends the batsmen cannot score and we have a better chance of getting wickets."