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At Galle, January 12, 13, 14, 15. Sri Lanka won by 315 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Muralitharan was the cynosure of all eyes. He entered the match needing five wickets to become the seventh bowler in history - and the second spinner, after Shane Warne - to reach 400 Test wickets. But the spectators who poured into the Galle Stadium in anticipation had to wait until the fourth morning, as Zimbabwe played their best cricket of the series during the first three days.
Winning the toss for the first time, Jayasuriya chose to bat. For once, however, the Zimbabweans seemed to have the measure of the home batsmen; when Streak trapped Vaas on the second morning, they had captured Sri Lanka's first seven wickets for 254, with the part-time spinners Grant Flower and Marillier doing much of the damage. But they could not finish them off, as Samaraweera and Chandana added 146, an eighth-wicket record for Sri Lanka in all Tests. Chandana narrowly failed to convert a maiden Test fifty into a century, while Samaraweera's 76 took his career average to 103.00 in eight Tests - quite something for a player selected largely for his bowling.
Zimbabwe's batsmen also showed more resolve. With Masakadza gone to the Under-19 World Cup, Carlisle promoted himself to open with Gripper, and they compiled 153, only 11 short of Zimbabwe's first-wicket record. Just as importantly, they used up 81 overs and 278 minutes before Jayasuriya separated them, and they patiently demonstrated that Muralitharan could be played off the front foot. Gripper's determined 83 was Zimbabwe's highest score of the series, and Carlisle batted nearly five and a half hours. By the third evening, the tourists were 230 for five, and had comfortably saved the follow-on.
On the fourth day, however, they fell apart in spectacular fashion. They added only six more runs for the remaining five wickets, maintaining their strange inability to pass 236. Jayasuriya claimed his first five-wicket haul in Tests, but the crowd got what they really wanted when Muralitharan reached the 400 mark by bowling Friend and Olonga with successive balls. He had got there in 72 Tests, trimming eight off Richard Hadlee's record, and at 29 years 273 days was also the youngest bowler to reach 400, beating Warne by more than two years. "The main thing in my mind is to take 500 wickets," Murali said. "But if I remain fit and keep performing well, then I can continue for another five years and could get 600."
Inspired by his feats, his colleagues rattled up 212 for two in 41 overs before declaring; Atapattu scored an unbeaten century in 126 balls, while Sangakkara charged to 56 from 50. Left a target of 395 in a minimum 125 overs, Zimbabwe collapsed in a heap. Jayasuriya and Muralitharan continued to share the spoils in a deadly partnership, shooting Zimbabwe out for their second lowest total in Tests - 79 inside 44 overs, as the fourth day was extended to produce a result. Muralitharan finished with 60 wickets, at 15.55 each, from his eight Tests at Galle.
Man of the Match: S. T. Jayasuriya.
Man of the Series: M. Muralitharan.
Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 243-6 (Samaraweera 8, Vaas 2); Second day, Zimbabwe 18-0 (Carlisle 13, Gripper 3); Third day, Zimbabwe 230-5 (G. W. Flower 19, Streak 29).