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Muttiah Muralitharan breaks Test wicket record

England reached lunch on the third day of the second test against Sri Lanka with a 91 run lead after being bowled out for 281 shortly before the break – but the day belonged to Muttiah Muralitharan as he became Test cricket’s most prolific bowler ever.

The wicket of Paul Collingwood brought Murali’s total up to 709 when he returned for a second spell of the morning. He also secured a staggering 61st five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

  Muttiah Muralitharan breaks record as England adge in front
Record breaker: Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates his landmark achievement in Kandy

After Murali had equalled Warne’s total yesterday, there was a sense of waiting for the inevitable but the spinner had to endure a fruitless opening spell as England’s batsmen consolidated their strong position in the match.

Muralitharan proved unsuccessful for more than an hour and Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was forced to turn to the new ball for a breakthrough.

It did the trick as a stubborn seventh-wicket stand between Collingwood and Ryan Sidebottom was broken in just the third over.

Sidebottom struck a Test-best 31, which represented the bulk of a 57-run alliance, but perished when a thick outside edge was well held, diving forward, by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Then, shortly before midday, the bounce of the new ball accounted for Collingwood, clipping his middle stump – a delivery Muarli later confessed had gone on instead of turning as he had intended – and the bowler was mobbed by his team-mates in the middle

There was celebration in the stands, too, as fireworks were set off for the local hero.

England were all out for 281 not long after the landmark achievement as Matthew Hoggard was stumped down the leg-side to provide Murali with number 710 and James Anderson was adjudged leg-before to Chaminda Vaas.

Earlier, Sidebottom had given England a lead with an on-drive for four off Dilhara Fernando in the opening over of the morning.

Having begun on 186 for six, two runs short of Sri Lanka’s first-innings total, England made steady progress as Collingwood showed trust in his partners.

Sidebottom survived one Murali over last night and fought gamely, striking only the third boundary off the off-spinner in the innings when he whipped the ball through midwicket, which also brought up 200.

England’s lower order proved stubborn and Sidebottom surpassed that target in moving past his previous best of 26 not out while Collingwood became increasingly adventurous as the innings drew on.

Improvising against Murali, he cut off his stumps for one boundary and deftly reverse-swept a three towards the end of 22 overs of defiance alongside Sidebottom.

Murali admitted he was glad that his record-breaking wicket had come on home soil, rather than in the recent tour to Australia.

“It is the right timing,” he said. “That’s a special wicket. It was not meant that way because I tried to spin the ball and it didn’t spin.”

Murali is sure to be the focus of much attention over the coming days and, asked to reflect on his career, he said: “The highlight was in England when I took 16 wickets at the Oval (in 1998) because it made people think that I was a good bowler and one who could take wickets overseas as well as at home.”

Regardless of the Sri Lankan’s incredible achievement, it is England who hold the advantage in the match on a slow pitch and will be optimistic of pushing on to win the match.

England must do so, however, without the fielding of Kevin Pietersen after he sustained a minor crack in the little finger of his right hand.

The 27-year-old incurred the damage while fielding in the first innings but is expected to bat if required in this match and be available for the second Test in Colombo this coming Sunday.

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