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Sri Lanka's danger man - 05-10-2006, 10:38 AM

It is a surprising fact that after almost 14 years in international cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan has never played a Test at Lord's.

The Sri Lanka spin bowler will finally put that right on Thursday, but at the age of 34, there is a chance that his first Test appearance at the home of cricket will also be his last.

Conditions are unlikely to be in his favour, but England know that Murali's prodigious wicket-taking skills often defy the game's accepted norms.

Muralitharan's first match against England was as a raw 20-year-old in Colombo in 1993 and he picked up five wickets to help his side to victory.

"He is a very different bowler now," said former England batsman Robin Smith.

"I batted all day against him then and he didn't have much variation. He bowled an off-spinner which turned prodigiously, probably more than it does now, but he didn't have the arm ball or the doosra, so it did make it a lot easier.

"I remember playing him off the back foot because he was only turning the ball one way, but now if you did that you could soon find yourself walking back to the pavilion.

"It's like facing Shane Warne, a lot of it is on a wing and a prayer. But if they get it right they are going to rip through a side.

"A lot of the time reputation can get you wickets too, it's quite intimidating facing someone who has taken over 600 Test wickets."

He knows the game backwards, he knows everybody's stats inside out, we call him 'Walking Wisden', Gary Keedy assesses Murali

Muralitharan missed the Lord's Test on Sri Lanka's 2002 tour of England because of a shoulder injury, so he will be doubly determined to do well.

And despite an early season surface which is expected to favour the seamers, his former Lancashire team-mate Gary Keedy believes he will still be capable to causing problems for the England batsmen.

"I don't think it matters what the wicket's doing. When we used to play away they would try and prepare green wickets but he's a fine bowler who can bowl on any surface," Keedy said.

"He's a one-off, and the wealth of knowledge he's got about how to get people out was absolutely brilliant for me."

As well as being a match-winner, Murali also has the reputation of being one of the game's true gentlemen.

And that is a view which Keedy endorses.

"He knows the game backwards, he knows everybody's stats inside out, we call him 'Walking Wisden.'

"He's just a friendly, genuine bloke and he made a lot of friends at Lancashire so he's always welcome in our dressing room," he said.

Murali currently has 611 Test wickets, putting him second to Shane Warne in the all-time list of Test wicket-takers, and is the only man in history with a combined total of over 1,000 for Tests and one-day internationals.

Few will forget his sensational first appearance in a Test in England at The Oval in 1998, when match figures of 16-220 led Sri Lanka to 10-wicket win.

"He's an awesome bowler, one of the greats. But in my opinion - and I don't have to face him - I don't think he's quite as good as he was," said Smith

England fans must hope he is right.
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05-10-2006, 06:19 PM

"England fans must hope he is right."

yaaa in their dreams thama
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