Murali breaks Warne's Test record

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan claimed his 709th Test wicket on Monday to surpass the record set by retired Australian legspinner Shane Warne.

Updated: December 05, 2007 11:04 IST
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Kandy/ Sydney:

Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan claimed his 709th test wicket on Monday to surpass the record set by retired Australian legspinner Shane Warne.

Muralitharan, playing in his 116th test, reached the milestone when he bowled England's Paul Collingwood for 45 during the third day's play at his home ground of Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy.

Muralitharan, 35, had a frustrating first spell, bowling nine overs without success and conceding 19 runs. His breakthrough came in the first over of his second spell, the 26th of the day, when he clipped Collingwood's middle stump.

The dismissal was met with a to a rousing cheer from the bowler's home crowd and bursting firecrackers.

Muralitharan said he was pleased to have been able to break the record at Kandy, rather than on the just completed tour of Australia.

"It's my hometown, my parents are here, my wife is here ... all the relatives are here and all my schoolfriends," he told reporters at lunch. "Everybody is here. It's a bigger moment than if I had taken it in Australia, it's the right time I think. It's not easy to take six wickets in an innings, I managed to let my pressure off now."

Muralitharan has only taken 12 wickets at 75 in five tests in Australia. His averages at home and against England are much better.

Muralitharan equaled Warne's mark on Sunday, claiming four wickets before play was abandoned at tea due to rain.

The offspinner previously held the record in 2004 when he overhauled West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh's mark of 519 wickets, only to be surpassed by Warne.

In July, Muralitharan entered an exclusive club with Warne when he brought up his 700th wicket.

On Sunday, Warne predicted his rival would hold the record for some time to come.

"It was nice to have it for a short while but I knew I would only have it for a short time," he said. "Murali has said he wanted to take 1000 Test wickets and he is every chance of getting there.

"Although he will have to play for some time yet, if he does get there I don't think anyone else will catch him."

Kandy's Asgiriya Stadium is a lucky charm for Muralitharan. It was at this ground he first rose to prominence, created records as a teenager for St Anthony's school, before equaling Warne's 700 wickets against Bangladesh.

Muralitharan's ability to turn the ball comes from his unorthodox wristy offspin, and an elbow bent since birth. That bent joint has been central to the debate over his bowling action.

The legitimacy of his bowling action came to a head in 1995 in Australia, when home umpire Darrell Hair no-balled Muralitharan for "throwing" during a test match in Melbourne.

His action was subsequently cleared by an Australian biomechanics expert, but he was no-balled again in Australia in 1998 and reported by English match referee Chris Broad in Sri Lanka in 2004.

The International Cricket Council, after a major investigation, ruled that due to his birth abnormality, his action is legal.

Despite the controversy, Muralitharan has become the most potent bowlers in contemporary cricket using his trademark "doosra", topspinners and varying angles.

Wisden, the authoritative cricket almanac, named Muralitharan the best cricketer for 2006.

Muralitharan's achievement on the cricket field has made him a household name in Sri Lanka and a source of hope and inspiration to a nation battered by decade of civil war.

His status as the only Tamil in the national team links together the two warring parties on the national cricket team.

Warne, 37, who retired in January and is now playing county cricket in England, claimed his 708 wickets from 145 tests.

Warne congratulates

Australian spin legend Shane Warne sent a congratulatory message to Sri Lankan Muthiah Muralidharan on becoming the leading wicket taker in Test cricket.

"Congratulations to Murali - he's been a wonderful player for a long period of time. He's an excellent competitor and has been great for Sri Lankan cricket," Warne said

"He's a great bloke too. I've been to Sri Lanka to help him after the Tsunami and we now even have a trophy named after the two of us. He'll probably go on and get 1,000 now but today I'd just like to say well done on the record," he added.

Muralidharan broke Warne's record of 708 Test wickets Monday when he dismissed Paul Collingwood during England's first innings in Kandy, Sri Lanka, to take his 709th wicket.

Muralidharan achieved the record in his 116th Test and on his home ground, which had been eagerly awaiting the historic moment over the first two days of the Test.

The Sri Lankan spinner had a difficult tour of Australia, where he managed four wickets from two matches.

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