GALLE, SRI LANKA // Muttiah Muralitharan became the first man to take 800 Test wickets as he helped Sri Lanka beat India by 10 wickets on the fifth and final day of the first Test yesterday. As his family watched from the stands, Murali, 38, the leading wicket-taker in Tests and one-day internationals (ODI), dismissed India's Pragyan Ojha to reach the milestone in his final Test appearance.
Ojha, the last man, brilliantly caught by Mahela Jayawardene at first slip for 13, was the final wicket to fall in the second innings as India totalled 338 in a desperate attempt to avoid defeat. Muralitharan said victory was more important than his personal milestone. "I told my captain [Kumar Sangakkara] to somehow get the wickets," the spinner said. "Had the match ended in a draw it would have been very sad.
"I badly wanted to win my final Test. We all play to win. At that moment we would have taken even a run out. "It was hard work for the spinners. The wicket had something in it yesterday and [paceman Lasith] Malinga's magnificent yorkers made the difference" as he took five for 50. Muralitharan went into the final day of his 133-match Test career needing two wickets to achieve his milestone and he took just 15 deliveries to trap Harbhajan Singh lbw for eight for his 799th dismissal.
India survived until lunch and more than an hour of the afternoon session before Muralitharan dismissed Ojha in his 45th over as the home side gave themselves a winning target of 95 to claim the first Test of the three-match series. "I am not emotional ? frankly I am happy I have [retired]," Muralitharan said. "I chose to finish my career at the end of the first Test because I know my knees are not going to last to bowl 50-60 overs [in a match anymore]. If I am there it will be four spinners and only two can play. I will be blocking the place of another young spinner."
Muralitharan snapped up three for 128 in the second innings. "I am very happy God has given me everything, eight wickets [in the game], a victory, basically everything. This is one of the greatest moments in my life, retiring this way." Sangakkara said his team could not have scripted the last day better. "When we came here on the first day we got off to a good start," he said. "The second day was washed out and there were some doubts in my mind whether we could get a result.
"Once we got that 520 for eight platform [in the first innings] and the way Lasith bowled, there was no way we were going to lose." He bowed out of the Test scene with a catalogue of thank yous. "I'd like to thank Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa for coming to support me," he said. "Thanks to my wife and family for their support. To my teammates, past and present, to the cricket board and officials, and the public of Sri Lanka.
"Thank you for supporting me all through these 19 years." * Agencies