First Sri Lanka-England Test begins today:
‘Murali’ cynosure of all eyes
Spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan will be the cynosure of all eyes
when Sri Lanka take on the touring England team in the First Test from
December 1 to 5 at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy.
The champion off spinner affectionately known as the smiling assassin
is now all set to become the highest wicket taker in the history of Test
Cricket. The 35 year old has now 704 wickets to his tally and needs just
five wickets to eclipse the World record of 708 wickets held by the
retired Australian spinner Shane Warne.
Murali as he is popularly known went to Australia for the two Tests
last month needing nine wickets to overtake Warne but managed only four
wickets at a cost of 400 runs on wickets which were more suited to fast
bowling. Muralitharan now has a chance of having a go at the World
record in front of his home town crowd.
Muralitharan has already captured over 100 Test wickets at the
Asgiriya Stadium which is a familiar terrain for him having played here
from his younger days. Thus the chances are there that this World record
of most number of Test wickets will be broken at the Asgiriya Stadium.
Muralitharan has proved almost unplayable in his own country where
his last 25 Tests have produced an incredible 205 wickets which is more
than eight per match at an average of 16.03. In those 25 Tests he has
captured five wickets in an innings on 20 occasions and ten wickets in a
match on eight occasions.
England of course will be hoping to draw inspiration from their
recent success in the one day international series where they triumphed
by a margin of 3-2 on Sri Lankan soil for the first time. They also go
into the first Test having recorded a morale boosting win against the
Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in a three day warm up match played in
England in their previous visit to Asgiriya Stadium had a successful
outing where they beat Sri Lanka in March 2001 thanks to a resilient
century from Nasser Hussain. The Lankans of course have a superior
record at this venue where they have won six matches out of their 20
The game could also turn out to be a significant one for Sri Lankan
fast bowler Chaminda Vaas who will be representing his country in his
100th Test match. In addition this will be a great chance for Sri Lanka
to improve on their International Cricket Council Test rankings
following their debacle in Australia.
Mahela Jayawardena and his team will know that a good performance for
them could propel them from their current position of fifth right into
second place. Such is the congested nature of the table that just six
points separate England in second and Sri Lanka in fifth.
At the same time Michael Vaughan’s team also has the chance to
maintain its place behind leaders Australia provided they could prevail
in this tough series which includes back to back Tests in Colombo and in
There are opportunities too for individuals to make a mark on the ICC
Player Rankings. Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara will be looking to
continue his upward trend as he puts pressure on Australian captain
Ricky Ponting and South African Jacques Kallis at the top of the ICC
Player Rankings for Test batsmen.
The 30-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman is enjoying his highest rating
date and is just 17 points behind Ponting in the top spot, who is a
clear of Kallis. Off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is of course the
undisputed leader in the ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers and the
only man on the list with more than 900 ratings points. This will be
England’s fourth visit to Sri Lanka since their inaugural tour to the
island in 1982.
They also toured Sri Lanka in 1993, 2001 and 2003. Both teams have
recorded three victories each from their eight outings with two games
ending in a draw.
However in the overall tally England are ahead in the series with
eight victories to their credit from 18 Test matches. Sri Lanka have
notched up five wins so far with five matches ending in a draw.