Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan played down the pre-match hype but he couldn't hide his delight when became the youngest bowler and was fastest to take Test 400 wickets at Galle on Tuesday morning and he has now set his sights on taking 600.

For three days an expectant crowd had filled into this seaside stadium hoping to witness Muralitharan's reach the landmark. But on each they wandered home disappointed as a docile pitch and some unusually tenacious batting prolonged the wait.

But on a frenzied fourth morning, when Zimbabwe lost their last five wickets for just six runs, the off-spinner grabbed a wicket with his first ball and polished off the innings by bowling Travis Friend and Henry Olonga with successive deliveries to become the seventh man in Test cricket's 125 year history to take 400.

As Muralitharan was engulfed by his teammates, fireworks erupted from the grassy stands in front of the grand Dutch Fort. When he finally emerged from his team's embrace, he held aloft match ball and walked off the field to a standing ovation with a grin that nearly spilt his face in half.

Blessed with a partially bent elbow and an unusually flexible wrist that allows him to turn the ball prodigiously, he reached the cherished landmark in his 72nd Test, which was eight games faster than New Zealand's Richard Hadlee, the previous quickest.

Just 29-years-old, he was also two years younger than Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne had been when he became the youngest to the 400-mark England at the Oval last August.

By the end of the day, when Sri Lanka had won by a massive 315 runs, he finished with 404 Test victims and 30 in the series, a new Sri Lankan record.

"I didn't have that much luck on the first few days as the ball was dropping here and there, but I kept being patient as we all knew that one wicket would bring two or three," he said afterwards.

"It's hard to take 400 wickets and it's a great moment in my career and I am really proud to have reached having played less Test matches than others.

"But personal achievements don't mean so much if the team is not winning and I was really glad that we also won the match."

Having been the world highest wicket-taker for the last two years Muralitharan has now set his sights on 500 and then Courtney Walsh's world record tally of 519.

"The main thing in my mind now is to take 500 wickets, but if I remain fit and keep performing well then I can continue for another five years and could then get 600," he said

Muralitharan is more confidant of doing so because of the greater support he now gets from the other bowlers: "When you have pressure at both ends you can normally get more wickets and that is why I have been getting more wickets in the last four years."

He plays done the head to challenge with Warne: "I don't see Shane Warne as a rival. If he gets 500 or 600 wickets I don't mind it, as it is his achievement. I want to concentrate on my personal achievements and the side winning."

Despite taking five and a half wickets per game, Muralitharan has struggled to gain due recognition for his exploits because of a controversial bowling action for which he was no balled thrice in Australia during the 1990s.

Although it proved to be a watershed moment in his career, helping him to become a stronger cricketer, and that he was later cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) legal after a detailed video analysis by the University of Western Australia, it's a period in his career that he's keen to forget.

"As far as I see it, two umpires made mistakes and they should listen to the ICC," he said bluntly.

He now looks forward to a short break and a tough series in England: "We now have two weeks off and we will try to train really hard to make sure we are at the top of out game for England."