Of course that last wicket was contrived. But his team-mates knew the fellow deserved it.

Some days Muttiah Muralitharan's deliveries came hurtling out of the rough as if flung by an underground catapult. This was not one of those. If there was magic in that final spell, this time it was not his flappy wrists or contortionist's shoulder that imbued it. The wizardry was ancient - one man's history bearing down in the waning moments of his career, turning Galle's salt air electric.

From every offbreak that Pragyan Ojha defended, drifted the memory of another, more perfect offbreak - the first-innings rapscallion that connived past Gary Kirsten's legs in Centurion, leaving Kirsten agape at the skewed wickets. From every doosra that Ishant Sharma kept out, oozed the spectre of another one - Sachin Tendulkar at the SSC, shaping to play the ball that pitched outside leg, belatedly deciding to leave it, the ball seeking out his blade in any case, clattering thereafter into timber.

There was no doubt that on this last day, Murali was off his game, but his team-mates were knowingly engaged in hero worship. Lasith Malinga - the best bowler - delivered containment line and length, while Kumar Sangakkara switched Murali's ends at Murali's behest, and refused to take him out of the attack.

Who better to worship than the man who carried the attack for over a decade?

So, fine, his team-mates told the world, you pretend there is even a conversation to be had about the legality of his action. Okay, you won't believe him when he put his arm in a steel-and-plaster cast, or voluntarily wired himself up on multiple occasions, sometimes at personal cost. And maybe you will dismiss him in conversations about who might be the greatest player of the era, citing matches against weaker opposition, or the doctoring of pitches. But this one thing we can do. Now, perhaps for all time, writ in black and white: Muttiah Muralitharan - 800 wickets. That, at least, you cannot deny.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando