September 8, 2001

Muralitharan reaches 350 Test wicket mark in record time

Man-of-the-match Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his 66th Test, who donated his winning cheque to Ashraful after the youngster's astonishing 114, became the fastest bowler to reach 350 Test wickets when he caught and bowled last man Mohammad Sharif.

Earlier this year in South Africa Muralitharan reached 300 Test wickets after 58 games, which was two games slower than Australian Dennis Lillee. Since then is has raced to the 350 mark in just eight Tests, beating Richard Hadlee's 69 game record.

"I was not thinking about the record this morning, just about taking wickets," he said afterwards.

Bangladesh had started the day on 100 four, still 365 runs arrears, but teenager Mohammad Ashraful delayed the inevitable with a century on debut.

"I thought it would be easier than what it was," he admitted. "The pitch, however, had lost its bounce and Ashraful rode his luck to play a brilliant innings."

He finished with match figures of 10-111, his second consecutive ten-wicket haul and the seventh time he had completed the feat - only Hadlee has done so on more occasions (nine in 86 matches).

Muralitharan's assault on the record books didn't stop there, as he broke the world record for the most Test wickets in a single venue when he trapped Habibul Bashar leg before wicket on Friday evening.

He has now taken 83 wickets in 13 games at the Sinhalese Sports Club, beating Lillee 82 wickets in Melbourne.

Muralitharan believes that he has become a better bowler now and expects to continue his climb up the all-time Test wicket-taking list.

"I have become a more experienced bowler over the last couple of years and that has helped me take more wickets," he said.

"I can't be expected to take wickets all the time, but I am still enjoying the game and see no reason why I can't continue playing for at least another five years."

"That will depend upon injuries of course, but I have been very lucky with those so far thanks to the work of physio Alex Kontouri, who has been working with us for six years now."

Muralitharan has been playing non-stop since Sri Lanka toured South Africa in December and he will now travel back to England to play one last match for Lancashire.

He admits to be looking forward to a break: "When I come back from the UK I will finally put my feet up for a month before Sharjah."

When he says "feet-up," however, he uses the term loosely because you can bet he will be back in his domestic nets bowling in next to no time.