Murali majestic in victory

Six hundred and thirty-five Test wickets in one hundred and six matches. Five wickets in an innings acheived fifty-three times and ten in a match sixteen. Truly amazing numbers, which anyone would be hard pressed to match. Numbers belonging to a freak and a genius – Muttiah Muralitharan, who today carved England’s batting to shreds to secure a victory for Sri Lanka and a share of the series.

Murali’s off breaks, doosras and every other ball in his mysterious armoury slashed at England’s middle order. Pietersen, Flintoff and co. had no answer to this menace, bemused by the ball darting every which way, tantalised by the web he wove. Indeed, Murali was on track for all ten wickets in the innings and probably would have acheived it too, had Matthew Hoggard not decided to run himself out rather than surrender. The Nottingham crowd was today truly blessed.

They were also entertained a little bit by Monty Panesar. Panesar had the chance to bowl first as Sri Lanka resumed their second innings on 286/7 – 288 runs ahead. Chamara Kapugedera failed to build on his overnight 50 before he was caught by Alistair Cook off Liam Plunkett. However, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga made themselves pests, putting on 33 before Panesar bowled Malinga around his legs. Two runs later, Panesar claimed his first five wicket haul in Test match cricket, when Murali was caught at long on by Strauss. England were set 325 to win – a hard enough task even without Murali.

England’s openers Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss batted cautiously but assuredly before lunch, and they had reached 84 without loss when Murali made his first breakthrough. Trescothick, unable to read Murali, played back to a doosra and had to watch it turn back in and remove his offstump. The new man, Cook, managed to partner Strauss for half an hour and another 20 runs, but had only made 5 himself before Murali trapped him infront. Then the storm came.

Strauss had batted well for 55, but was undone by Murali and edged to Jayawardene via a deflection off Sangakkara. Kevin Pietersen gloved to Dilshan at bat-pad having scored just 6. He was followed by Flintoff, who lasted just four balls. Flintoff hasn’t looked himself at times this series, with the bat in his hand especially. Flintoff thrust at his fourth ball with hard hands and got a thick inside edge to Dilshan. Dilshan then caught Collingwood fantastically. Collingwood was unlucky, having hit the ball into his own boot before Dilshan pulled off a fine sharp catch. Murali had 6. Sri Lanka had 6 and it was all over for England at 125/6.

Murali struck next after tea. Geraint Jones got a doosra which kept low and crept through Jones’ defences. Murali needed just 3 more for all 10. Only for Kapugedera from midwicket to interfere and run Hoggard out. Murali claimed victim number 8, Jon Lewis, soon after, though. Enter Monty Panesar.

Panesar has received some stick for his batting and fielding, but he entertains the crowd. Panesar had a little bit off fun, sweeping a couple of boundaries of Murali and hammering one through midwicket before sweeping Murali for 6. Sanath Jayasuriya trapped Panesar after the batsman had scored 26 though to bring the game to a close.

The series ended with it. Muttiah Muralitharan, cricketing genius, bowled Sri Lanka to a fine victory. Sri Lanka have deserved to draw the series from the way they fought in each match. England will be disappointed.

Sri Lanka 231
Chaminda Vaas 38*, Kumar Sangakkara 36
Andrew Flintoff 3-52, Jon Lewis 3-68

England 229
Paul Collingwood 48, Kevin Pietersen 41
Muttiah Muralitharan 3-62, Sanath Jayasuria 2-19

Sri Lanka 322
Kumar Sangakkara 66, Chamara Kapugedera 50
Monty Panesar 5-78, Liam Plunkett 2-65

England 190
Andrew Strauss 55, Marcus Trescothick 31
Muttiah Muralitharan 8-70, Sanath Jayasuriya 1-54

Sri Lanka win by 134 runs

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