Thursday, May 11, 2006

Murali Magic

Angus Fraser pens a nice tribute to Murali in the Independent. I've enjoyed watching Murali over the years, and still count myself lucky to have seen him bowl some of the longest, most patient, penetrating spells in test cricket - during a remarkable win at the Oval in the summer of 1998 (back in the bad old days, Sri Lanka only got a one-off test). I was visiting India then, during a brutally humid monsoon month, and spent most of the afternoons safely esconced at home, watching Murali twirl away. But the entire match had been memorable.

England had taken 158 overs to make 445 in their first innings. It was a good score, but perhaps, just perhaps, not good enough on a perfect batting pitch. Sri Lanka blasted their way to 79 off 20 overs by the end of the second day. That should have made England nervous. By the end of the third day, Sri Lanka had a one run lead with seven wickets in hand. They had rattled along at the same scoring rate with Jaya scoring 213 off 278 balls. Aravinda De Silva stood one-third of the way down the pitch - an amazing sight to see. The late Ben Hollioake did dismiss him, but it was all too late. Sri Lanka, in the same number of overs as England, scored 146 runs more. Murali had taken seven in the first; he then proceeded to take nine in the second innings, starting his marathon bowling spell on the fourth day, and pinning down a excessively cautious English side (overall, the test was a good lesson in how lack of aggression can make you lose matches, even ones in which you score 445 in the first innings). The dismissal of Butcher was a beauty; the ball drifting away from the left-hander as he came down the pitch, desperately trying to get Murali away, and being stranded for his troubles. Sri Lanka finished off England late on the fifth day, romping home by 10 wickets. England had been dismissed for 181 off 129 overs; Murali had taken 9-65 off 54 overs. Amazing stuff. Get a tape if you can.

When all the carping about Murali is done, perhaps too late for this man to enjoy his career in peace, we might realize what a genius strode the cricketing stage. And in gentlemanly fashion to boot.

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