Nobody gives the ball as much tweak as Muttiah Muralitharan. He uses his fingers and wrist to give the ball an enormous twirl. The Indian batsmen who were bamboozled by the magician in the Test series would never want to play him again. Sri Lanka won the third and final Test match at the Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds in Colombo by an innings and 77 runs, on Sunday.
India started the fourth day on 28/0 still needing 348 runs more to make Sri Lanka bat again. By close of play they had lost six of their top batsmen, scoring just 189 runs in the day off 96 overs. On the final day, the Indian tail wagged, putting up an explosive final burst, but were all out for 299 runs. Muralitharan, who had claimed 8/87 in the first innings, was again the best of Sri Lankan bowlers.
Carrying the hopes of the island nation on his shoulders, this humble cricketer from Kandy, bowled 46.5 overs and picked up three wickets, giving away 109 runs. He was quite unlucky early on the fourth day, Shiv Sunder Das was not given out after he had played the ball onto his boots and Jayasuriya took the catch.
Muralitharan got rid of Das after the Indian openers had put together a first wicket partnership of 107 runs. Das (68) going forward in defence to a well-flighted delivery was brilliantly caught at silly point by Hashan Tillakaratne. Though Muralitharan was not getting the wickets, he kept one end tied up and restricted the run flow.
With the score on 147 in the 63rd over of the Indian second innings, Sadagoppan Ramesh (55) received a delivery from Muttiah Muralitharan, which the batsman will whole-heartedly agree was the ball of a lifetime. The well-flighted delivery, drifted in to the left-handed batsman, pitched just outside the leg stump on a good length. Ramesh had a good look at it and shaped to play at it, the ball zipped through and struck like a Cobra, clipping the top of the off stump. Ramesh was completely mesmerised by it all and stood his ground frozen. It was as good as the magic that the great Australian leg spinner Shane Warne delivered to clean up Mike Gatting.
Murali took some stick early on the fifth morning as the Indian tail-enders; especially Zaheer Khan threw the bat around. The historic Test win and the Test series win came about when Marvan Atapattu took a good catch in the deep off the bowling of Muralitharan to dismiss Zaheer Khan (45). Muralitharan finished with the match figures of 11/196, amazing figures by any means. He claimed 23 wickets at an average of 19.30 for the series. Muralitharan was named the Man of the Match and the Man of the Series.
There has been no competition for this 'King of Tweak' through the series. Muttiah Muralitharan takes all the honours for his fantastic effort and is indeed our Top Performer.