When Muttiah Muralitharan came close to taking the ‘perfect-10’

Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has been one of the greatest tweakers to have played the game. Throughout his career, he was compared to another great spinner of his era Shane Warne. And though he ended up with more career wickets than Warne (in fact more than anyone else), the fans still remain divided on this debate of who is greater amongst the two.

But the fact remains that Murali, as is fondly known as, is one of the biggest match-winner who won Sri Lanka many a games single-handedly. He gave a good account of his ability to dominate the opposition on his own exactly 14 year ago, when a hapless Zimbabwean team found themselves on the receiving end.

The Test was second of the three-Test series from Zimbabwe’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2001-02 and was played in Kandy. Opting to bat first, Zimbabwe ended the Day One on 9 for 234, with all nine wickets going in Murali’s kitty. Such was his dominance that he cleaned-up four of them, trapped two before the stumps, got one stumped and got caught two of them, ending day with figures of 9 for 51.

The Zimbabwe batsmen — including the Flower brothers Andy and Grant — had simply no answer to Murali’s turn, variations and guile. On Day 2, Murali could have taken his ‘perfect 10’ had Russel Arnold held on to a regulation bat-pad catch. With a huge lbw appeal turned down, Murali eventually missed out on joining Jim Laker and Anil Kumble in the elite list.

Chaminda Vaas, who was trying hard not to take a wicket from the other end, still got the last man Henry Olonga; inadvertently though. Sri Lanka eventually won the match by an innings’ margin as Sanath Jayasuriya cracked up a ton and Mahela Jayawardene, Arnold and Vaas scored half-centuries. Murali added another four wickets and finished the match with the figures of 13 for 115 and also the Man-of-the-Match award.