Australia have not downgraded the threat of Muttiah Muralitharan despite delivering a significant obstacle to his hopes of breaking Shane Warne's Test wicket-taking record in Hobart. Muralitharan was limited to two breakthroughs for the match and he needs seven in the final game of the series in Hobart, which starts on Friday, to beat Warne's 708.
It is unlikely to worry Muralitharan if he falls short as Sri Lanka's following Test is against England on his home ground in Kandy. Australian crowds have treated Muralitharan harshly throughout his career, including shouting "no-ball" when he bowled in Brisbane, and the occasion would gain more appropriate significance if it occurred in Sri Lanka.
Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, said the race to the record was not a concern for Muralitharan. "If he doesn't get it in the second Test I'm sure he'll play quite a few more Tests," he said. "Even for Murali it's not an issue."
The chase appears to be more of a deal for Australia, and Ricky Ponting is determined that Muralitharan will depart Australia empty handed. Ponting helped Muralitharan edge closer when he was stumped in the first innings, but he felt the Australians coped with his repertoire.
"I knew if we played him well we'd go a long way to having our noses in front for the rest of the series," Ponting said. "Now we've played him here, we've got to do it again in Hobart. I've made no secret of it that I'd like to see him leave Australia without the record."
However, Ponting warned Muralitharan was capable of getting the seven wickets in one go. "He's taken a whole lot more than that in a single match before," he said. "Hobart is somewhere that probably will favour slow bowlers late in the game and it's somewhere where we might bat twice, so he'll have two cracks at us."