Second Test

Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe

At Kandy, January 4, 5, 6, 7. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 94 runs. Toss: Zimbabwe.

Muralitharan came agonisingly close to the best innings figures in all Test cricket. By the first evening he had taken nine for 51 from 39 overs, with one Zimbabwean wicket to fall. Next morning, Friend offered a regulation bat-pad catch off Murali's first ball, only for Arnold to drop it; then an lbw appeal was turned down. At the other end, Vaas bowled wide of off stump to Olonga, but could not stop him nicking one - which Sangakkara could not bring himself to drop. If Murali had dismissed Friend, he would have beaten Jim Laker's ten for 53 against Australia in 1956, as well as Anil Kumble's ten for 74 against Pakistan in 1998-99. As it was, he had to be content with the fifth-best analysis in Test cricket, and becoming the only bowler to take nine in an innings in two Tests; Laker took nine and ten in the same match at Old Trafford. In fact, Muralitharan ranked this performance behind his nine for 65 at The Oval in 1998. "It is difficult to get wickets there as a spinner," he said, "and England were a stronger side."

His exploits overshadowed a controversy on the eve of the Test when the home selectors planned to introduce two newcomers at the expense of the team's vice-captain and opening batsman, Atapattu, and the seamer Buddika Fernando. The players closed ranks amid talk of pulling out. At 11 p.m. on the eve of the game, it emerged that the sports minister had overturned the selectors' decision.

Back on the field, Zimbabwe claimed first use of a true pitch, but Muralitharan was soon whisking through their line-up. In front of his home crowd he came on in the ninth over, and Gripper edged his second ball to slip. He bowled Masakadza in his third over, had Rennie stumped in his fifth, and Andy Flower caught behind in his seventh. By the end of his first spell, he had added Carlisle, lbw. When he returned from the other end, he took three balls to trap Wishart lbw, and bowled Streak in his next over. After tea, he bowled Marillier and Grant Flower, the only batsman to offer prolonged resistance, to reach nine for 47. But Murali was held up by a stubborn last-wicket partnership between Friend and Olonga. He almost sabotaged his own chances when he dived on the boundary in a gallant attempt to dismiss Olonga off the bowling of Samaraweera, in the last over of the day - stirring memories of Richard Hadlee taking a catch in the deep at Brisbane in 1985-86 to deny himself all ten. Worse, Murali dislocated his ring finger in the process. There was a doctor on standby in case he needed a painkiller next morning. But Arnold's miss and Olonga's incompetence denied him the record.

Sri Lanka put the disappointment behind them, rattling along at four an over as Jayasuriya raced to his ninth Test hundred, an aggressive 139 off 212 balls. He was backed up by rapid cameos from Sangakkara and Jayawardene and dogged efforts from the tail: Vaas added a patient 111 for the eighth wicket with Fernando and scored an unbeaten seventy for the second match running. Grant Flower exerted some control and Streak bowled better than his figures suggested but Zimbabwe conceded a first-innings lead of 269 and, by the end of the third day, were three down again. Muralitharan had already taken his tenth wicket of the match - for the tenth time in Tests, beating Hadlee's world record of nine. When he concluded proceedings on the fourth afternoon, he had 13 for 115. Fernando, who had so nearly been omitted, also picked up four wickets, including Rennie, whose plucky 68 spanned three hours. No one else offered more than token resistance as Sri Lanka accelerated to another innings victory.

Man of the Match: M. Muralitharan.

Close of play: First day, Zimbabwe 234-9 (Friend 28, Olonga 17); Second day, Sri Lanka 334-4 (Arnold 44, Tillekeratne 35); Third day, Zimbabwe 68-3 (Rennie 26, A. Flower 6).

© John Wisden & Co