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2007-12-13 / Sports

Sri Lankan Breaks Australian's Test Cricket Wickets Record

By KRISHAN FRANCISAssociated Press Writer

By KRISHAN FRANCISAssociated Press Writer

Muralitharan broke the record in his 116th Test match and receives the acclaim of his home-town crowd KANDY, Sri Lanka (AP) - - Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan broke former Australian legspinner Shane Warne's record for test wickets Monday, reaching 709 against England.

Muralitharan, playing in his 116th test, reached the milestone when he bowled England's Paul Coll-ingwood for 45 during the third day of play at Asgi-riya Stadium.

Muralitharan 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 Colling-wood's middle stump.

The dismissal was met with a rousing cheer from the home crowd and fireworks as his teammates rush-ed to offer congratulations.

The 35-year-old Muralitharan equaled Warne's mark Sunday, claiming four wickets before play was stopped at tea because of rain. The offspinner broke West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh's mark of 519 in 2004, but was later passed by Warne. In July, Muralitharan entered an exclusive club with Warne when he brought up his 700th wicket.

Muralitharan said he was pleased 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 said. "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.

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

Warne was quick to congratulate his successor following the feat.

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

"He'll probably go on and get 1,000 (wickets) now, but today I would just like to say well done on the record," he added.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse congratulated Muralitharan after his record-breaking effort.

"Your achievement makes Sri Lanka proud and brings new glory to Sri Lanka cricket,'' Rajapakse said in a statement.

The Sri Lankan postal department has also re-leased a commemorative stamp in the shape of a cricket ball bearing Muralitharan's portrait in honor of the record.

Muralitharan has long stated his goal of claiming 1,000 Test wickets, and former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody said he believes he will reach it provided his body holds up.

"If his body holds together and he's still got the burning desire to achieve those personal milestones, he's going to do it, simple as that,'' said the Aus-tralian, who coaches Western Australia state.

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 Dar-rell Hair no-balled Muralitharan for "throwing'' during a test match in Melbourne.

His action was subsequently cleared by an Aus-tralian 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 bowler in contemporary cricket us-ing his trademark "doosra,'' topspinners and varying angles.

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 the two warring parties on the national cricket team.

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