History of Cricket

2004


2004 was a turbulent year for world cricket. Two administrative issues, long simmering, that simply would not go away, reached dramatic climaxes.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak was to catalyse a showdown over the status of Zimbabwean Test cricket. On 15 January, however, he was guardedly optimistic about the forthcoming tour by Australia in May-June. Streak urged the Australians to come to Zimbabwe, saying it would be a tremendous boost to the sport locally, providing interest and helping to develop the game at grassroots level. He considered any safety concerns to be unfounded, but admitted that the political situation between Zimbabwe and Australia might be an obstacle.

In February-March, Bangladesh toured Zimbabwe for a two-Test series and a five-ODI series, finally providing the home team with some opponents who started as underdogs. Andy Blignaut helped seal an emphatic 183-run victory in the first Test with a hat-trick, the first by a Zimbabwean, but the second Test was a drawn washout, with over three days lost to Bulawayo's rain. After another two washouts in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe pulled off a close 2-1 ODI series victory over Bangladesh, thanks to magnificent performances by Streak, who topped the bowling and batting series averages for Zimbabwe with 11.57 and 53.00 respectively.

And then, in a long-awaited moment of triumph for Zimbabwe, things went sour.

Heath Streak

On 2 April, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union issued a statement saying that Heath Streak had resigned as captain of Zimbabwe and from all forms of cricket. The ZCU appointed wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu, only 20 years old, as the new captain. According to the ZCU, Streak had presented them with a series of ultimatums at their recent quarterly meeting, including demands to review the team selection panel, making it at most four people, all of whom were to be neither ZCU directors or commentators, and to have played first-class cricket. The ZCU said that Streak had said he had no confidence in the teams being selected. Streak had threatened to quit if his demands were not met, and the ZCU called the bluff.

Over the next few days, there was increasing confusion over what had actually happened as conflicting reports came to light. Some said Streak had quit cricket altogether, some claimed he would still play county cricket for Warwickshire in the upcoming English season, others said the ZCU had actually sacked him. For his part, Streak refused to make any comments, saying he'd rather not say anything until the whole matter was cleared up.

On 4 April, it became clear that Streak had been fighting an uphill battle to hold the entire Zimbabwe team together. Unnamed inside sources began leaking news that two, three, or even more players were also considering their positions now that Streak was gone.

On 6 April, the silence was finally broken, via a prepared statement released by Streak's father. It speaks eloquently for itself:
As a father to Heath Streak, I am alarmed at the various press reports regarding my son's position with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. My son himself cannot make a statement as he considers himself bound by his contract with the ZCU, which limits his ability to make any press statements.

I am fully aware of the situation, as Heath has obviously discussed matters with me. Heath, at no time, tendered or threatened to tender his resignation as captain or as a national player as alleged by the ZCU. All he said was that if his concerns were not addressed he would "consider possible retirement from international cricket".

In the circumstances the ZCU, in my view, have acted unlawfully in terminating Heath's position as captain and a member of the Zimbabwe national squad. I am aware that he is seeking legal advice regarding this issue and enjoys overwhelming support and encouragement from both his fellow players and the cricketing public in Zimbabwe.

Denis Streak

Within a few days, Andy Blignaut, Gary Brent, Stuart Carlisle, Charles Coventry, Sean Ervine, Gavin Ewing, Neil Ferreira, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Trevor Gripper, Raymond Price, Barney Rogers, Richard Sims, and Craig Wishart had formed an alliance with Streak. All had represented Zimbabwe except Ferreira, who was a potential future selection. The group submitted a list of demands to the ZCU, primarily including Streak's reinstatement as captain, as well as a review of the team selection process with a view to removing racial bias. Over several broken-down negotiations and stand-offs, they finally issued an ultimatum. If the ZCU did not concede to their demands by 14 April, they would resign en masse. This would mean that the ZCU would have to field a team of replacements pulled out of first-class cricket - not even a second strength side, more like a third strength one - to play against Sri Lanka who would soon arrive in Zimbabwe for their first ODI on 20 April.

England Reacts

Meanwhile, on 11 April, the ECB announced they would go ahead with their scheduled tour of Zimbabwe in November. Despite the ECB wanting to cancel the tour, many players raising moral objections and not wanting to go, the overwhelming support of the British public for cancelling the tour, and the obvious dipleasure of the British government, the ECB decided it could not risk the possible punishment of the ICC. The ICC had stated that the only acceptable reasons for not touring Zimbabwe were legitimate concerns over security or a directive from the British government ordering the team not to tour. Although the government was overwhelmingly against the tour, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated that it would be unconstitutional to restrict the freedoms of the ECB and its employees (the players) to travel to Zimbabwe. So the government refused to issue the order that would provide an escape hatch for the ECB. Safety was never really an issue, so the ICC warned that if the ECB boycotted the tour they would be liable for penalties including the stripping of hosting rights for the ICC Champions Trophy in September, fines in the order of 10 million pounds, and possibly the banning of England from international cricket for 12 months.

Consider what this would have meant. England, the birthplace of cricket, banned from playing cricket for a year. The loss of the Champions Trophy and the 2005 international season would be devastating for the finances of the ECB, probably bankrupting it. The game of cricket would lose its administrative agency in England. What would be left to even pick up the pieces? This was such a dire threat that the ECB really had no choice at all. They had to go to Zimbabwe this time.

Threats

Back in Zimbabwe, the 14 April deadline passed with no word from the ZCU. The rebelling players issued a six-page statement outlining specific instances of interference with team selection. These included an incident in which Mark Vermeulen, a white batsman, was offered "a double match fee, not to play" in a ODI for which he'd already been selected, so that Stuart Matsikenyeri could play instead. It also stated that journalist Mehluli Sibanda had received telephone threats not to side with Streak from a member of the ZCU board. The ZCU responded with one token concession, offering to change the selection panel to four members, although the composition was still dubious.

The next day, 15 April, the ZCU named a team for the first ODI against Sri Lanka. None of the 15 rebel players were in it. The ZCU press release also stated that the rebel players were expected to report for training the next morning, despite not being named in the team, or else "action will be taken against them in terms of their contract".

On 16 April, Australia confirmed it would go ahead with its scheduled tour to Zimbabwe in May-June, with a carefully worded statement that merely said Cricket Australia "supported the ICC future tours program". Later that day, the ZCU and the 15 dissenting players filed legal action against each other, both claiming that the other party had breached the terms of their contract. The ZCU gave the players a 21 day deadline, until 7 May, to report for training and matches.

On 18 April, Mehluli Sibanda publicly confirmed that he had received phone calls from a "member of the ZCU board". Sibanda said, "He threatened me with unspecified action and also threatened to report me to the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the office of the president and cabinet, Jonathan Moyo, that I am siding with a white man." By now it was becoming painfully clear that Peter Chingoka, the mild-mannered chairman of the ZCU, and Vince Hogg, the chief executive, had become little more than pawns of Ozias Bvute, a ZCU board member with close ties to Jonathon Moyo and hence Mugabe's government. Bvute had unilaterally vetoed a deal between Hogg and some of the rebel players allowing them to skip domestic first-class matches without penalty - an action that he had no right to do.

The same day, several media outlets reported that three black players named in the team to face Sri Lanka, Dion Ebrahim, Douglas Hondo, and Mluleki Nkala, were poised to quit and join their white team mates in their protest action. This was quickly quashed on 19 April by a ZCU statement released on behalf of the three, which said, "We the undersigned have no intention of boycotting or pulling out of the squad. We are proud to be selected and will fulfil our commitment to Zimbabwe cricket."

On 20 April, as the understrength makeshift Zimbabwe team lined up to face Sri Lanka in the first ODI, a reporter claimed the statement in the ZCU denial was issued by the players under duress. He said he had witnessed Stephen Mangongo, Zimbabwe's new convenor of selectors, shouting at Hondo. "You are being stupid. How can you side with those white racists?" The heated exchange convinced the reporter that the black trio were being bullied into playing and supporting the ZCU.

On 21 April, Australia's Stuart MacGill announced he would not take part in Australia's tour to Zimbabwe. He cited overwhelming moral concerns about the political situation in the country, stating he could not tour with a clear conscience. Cricket Australia supported MacGill's decision, saying he had been in discussion with them for a long time over the issue. They also stated that other players had been given plenty of opportunity to make any of their objections known, and they didn't expect any further withdrawals from the tour.

Throughout all of this, what had the ICC been doing? Minding its own business, it claimed. The ZCU problem was an "internal affair", not to be interfered with by the ICC. But if the very fabric of Test cricket in a full member nation was not the ICC's business, what was? But eventually the pressure had to result in some action. Some quiet talks between ICC officials and Peter Chingoka resulted in an offer of mediation by the ZCU to the rebel players. The players rejected the offer.

On 25 April, in the third ODI, Sri Lanka bowled Zimbabwe out for 35 runs, the lowest score ever in an ODI, beating even the embarrassing 36 scored by Canada in the 2003 World Cup. Sri Lanka cruised to a nine-wicket victory and 3-0 series lead. The truth of the situation in Zimbabwe was reflected by a local observer who was quoted, "I guess the scores will be seriously adjusted when they are handed over to Mugabe's election assessors for checking. I'll let you know what margin they adjudge Zimbabwe to have won by!"

An interview with one of the rebel players, who remained anonymous, was released the same day. The player stated there was a cancer at the heart of the ZCU. He said the players had some fears over the safety of themselves and their families. He confirmed that three black players had wanted to side with them, but had been coerced into not doing so.

Mediation Rejected

On 28 April, the ZCU announced that the rebel players had agreed to report for training on 30 April, and to mediation by prominent businessman Much Musunda. The players confirmed they were willing to begin training as an act of good faith, but said they would reserve judgment on any ZCU offers until they got into mediation. They said if they could not come to agreement, the only suitable option would be independent and binding arbitration.

On 1 May, several of the rebel players, including Streak, took the field for Zimbabwe A in a warm up match before the Tests. The same day reports appeared stating that Ozias Bvute and the ZCU's convener of selectors Stephen Mangongo had had an argument over team selection that had come to physical blows and arm locks. A witness stated Mangongo wanted eight white players in the Test side while Bvute insisted on a maximum of three or four.

As Zimbabwe A held Sri Lanka to a draw in the game over the next two days, Streak's popularity with the public was clearly deomstrated as he won the biggest applause from the overwhelmingly black crowd gathered to watch the game.

On 4 May, the ZCU named four of the rebel players in the Test squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka beginning on 6 May: Heath Streak, Trevor Gripper, Sean Ervine, and Ray Price. The players immediately pulled out of the squad, saying they would not play unless the ZCU agreed to independent arbitration. They said the ZCU's offer of mediation was no good, and the only solution was arbitration.

On 5 May, the ICC finally released a statement. It was not what anyone but Ozias Bvute would have been hoping for. President Ehsan Mani said: "If the rebels believe that walking out will result in other countries interfering in Zimbabwean cricket, I think that they have been very badly advised. The ICC has no mandate or authority from it members to unilaterally interfere in disputes between the people who govern the game in a particular country and the people who play cricket there."

A Travesty of Test Cricket

The first Test began on 6 May, with Tatenda Taibu becomeing the youngest ever Test captain, leading a side of inexperienced players without the experience of any of the rebels. It was over in three days with Sri Lanka thrashing the weakened Zimbabwe side by an innings and 240 runs. Journalists called it a travesty of Test cricket. The fact that Muttiah Muralitharan broke Courtney Walsh's record of 519 Test wickets just added to the feeling that records set against this Zimbabwe side were cheapened.

On 10 May, the rebel players again indicated their willingness to enter into arbitration with the ZCU. Trevor Gripper said that they were willing to resume training and make themselves available for the second Test, beginning 14 May, as a gesture of good faith. The ZCU responded immediately by saying all 15 players had their contracts terminated. The ZCU said that because they had not resumed training by the 7 May deadline, they were in violation of their contracts. The ZCU added, however, that if they wished to resume playing, they would be considered for selection in the Zimbabwe team. The players' response was to confirm they would be sueing the ZCU.

On 11 May, members of the ICC tried to contact the ZCU, but nobody answered the phones.

On 14 May, in response to legal counsel and for the "avoidance of any doubt and for the sake of the game of cricket", the ZCU gave the rebels another 21-day deadline to resume training, or else it would cancel their contracts. This may have been a concession that they were on very shaky legal ground.

The second Test also began on 14 May. It was also over in three days, this time Sri Lanka exceeding even the previous enormous victory margin, winning by an innings and 254 runs. Double centuries by Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara in Sri Lanka's total of 3/713 highlighted just how outclassed the makeshift Zimbabwean team was. Heath Streak was at the ground, watching the game - but he had to pay admission to get in.

On 15 May, Sean Ervine, one of the most promising young rebels, aged only 21 and with the prospcts of a distinguished career if only he hadn't been born in Zimbabwe, announced his retirement from Zimbabwean cricket and that he would move to Australia. Arriving in Harare airport the next day, the Australian touring squad saw Ervine as he travelled in the opposite direction. His plan was to play first-class cricket for Western Australia and hopefully qualify after four years residency to play for Australia.

The ICC Reacts, Finally

On 17 May, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed flew to Harare for urgent talks with the ZCU. He indicated to the ZCU that they had a 24-hour deadline to name a "credible Test XI" for the first Test against Australia, shceduled to begin on 22 May. The unstated implication - that the ZCU had to include some of the 15 sacked players - was clear. ICC chairman Ehsan Mani stated that the request was designed to ensure the "integrity of Test cricket", not an attempt to address the dispute between the ZCU and its players, which he still insisted was an internal ZCU matter.

It seemed that what was more important to the ICC was preserving the integrity of Test match records and ensuring that Australia could not blithely post unbeatable world record scores against a third rate team. Reports began appearing that India had requested the move from the ICC, breaking ranks with the bloc of other Asian nations and their insistence that the ICC not get involved. At any rate, someone, somewhere, was apparently upset at the prospect of Australia demolishing Zimbabwe by even greater margins than Sri Lanka had done, and that forced the ICC, finally, to act.

In a stunningly audacious move, the ZCU declined to meet with Speed. Leaving Zimbabwe without having seen anyone he came to see, Speed called a crisis meeting of the ICC Board for 21 May. The agenda: a vote to determine if the two-Test series against Australia to start the next day would be stripped of Test status.

On 21 May, with the ICC vote just hours away, the ZCU offered to Cricket Australia to cancel the Test matches. Cricket Australia accepted the offer and together the boards asked the ICC to endorse the cancellation. The ICC did so, and called off the vote. The ZCU had almost certainly managed to avoid being stripped of Test status with this last-minute deal. Australia's Test-only players flew home, while its ODI players joined the squad for the 3-ODI series, still to be played, and moved ahead into the gap created by the cancellation of the Tests.

Many commentators made the point that this action by the ICC indicated it was only interested in preserving the integrity of Test cricket records, while throwing ODIs - and any stand against the politicising and racism of the ZCU - to the wind, as the ZCU was unlikely to field any better a team for those.

Over the next few weeks, the rebel players resigned themselves to not playing in Zimbabwe again and several moved or signed first class contracts overseas.

On 10 June, a meeting between the ZCU and the heads of the Australia, South African, and Indian boards on behald of the ICC reached agreement that Zimbabwe would play no further Test matches in 2004, effectively cancelling the English tour to Zimbabwe in October and Zimbabwe's tour of Pakistan in November.

Investigation and Arbitration

On 30 June, the ICC gave the ZCU a deadline of 14 days to agree to arbitration with the rebel players, or face direct ICC intervention. The ZCU claimed the ICC had no authority to intervene, but ICC lawyers disagreed. Playing brinkmanship once again, the ZCU agreed to arbitration on 14 July, just before the deadline expired.

Unable to avoid the allegations any longer, the ICC arranged an investigation into the charges of racism levelled at the ZCU by the rebel players. They arranged for India's Solicitor General, Goolam Vahanvati, and the South African High Court judge Steven Majiedt to hear evidence and come to a conclusion on the veraicty of the allegations.

The investigation hearing began on 29 September, in Harare. For the first two hours, the investigators heard arguments from a lawyer representing the players that Ozias Bvute, the board's acting managing director, the chairman of selectors Max Ebrahim, and Tavengwa Mukuhlani, the Mashonaland Cricket Association chairman, must not be present while the players gave their testimonies, as they felt intimidated and feared for their personal safety if identified by the ZCU board. The panel, although not agreeing that there was a danger, could not proceed otherwise and ordered the ZCU representatives to absent themselves while the players gave evidence. The ZCU officials refused. Unable to break the deadlock, the panel had no choice but to abandon the hearings and request written submissions from both sides, rather than verbal testimony.

On 18 October, the investigation panel released its findings in a 73-page report. They concluded that there was no evidence of racism by the ZCU.

The panel rejected the evidence of the rebel players about racist actions by the ZCU as "uncorroborated hearsay". The only verbal witness for the players was the journalist Mehluli Sibanda, who repeated his evidence that he was threatened by Ozias Bvute for siding with the rebel players and was then physically assaulted by him. He had to be smuggled into Harare to testify, as he feared being discovered by the ZCU on his way to the hearing. He had only agreed to testify after being assured that he would remain anonymous. The 73-page report contained his name and full testimony, before the conclusion by the panel that "We cannot accept such uncorroborated evidence".

The ICC gladly accepted the findings of the investigation and announced on the same day that Zimbabwe would be immediately reinstated to play Test cricket.


Muttiah Muralitharan: The World Record and the Throwing Law

The Race to 500 Wickets

Muttiah Muralitharan was rapidly closing on the landmark of 500 Test wickets and Courtney Walsh's world record of 519. Continuing doubts about his bowling action would once again come to the fore in a clash with Australia, this time on Sri Lankan soil. It was a series notable also for marking Shane Warne's return to international cricket after serving his year-long ban for using a banned drug.

The Test series began with Muralitharan on 485 wickets and Warne on 491. It was to be a race to 500 and the world record. Despite what anyone thought of Muralitharan's action, all eyes on this series were focused on that race. Here's how it went:

Both bowlers had an outstanding series, Warne 26 wickets at an average of 20.03 and the Man of the Series award in his first outing after a year on the sidelines, Murali 28 wickets at 23.17.

Reported for Suspect Action

At the end of the series, however, on 28 March, match referee Chris Broad indicated that his report to the ICC would include a report against Muralitharan for an illegal action when bowling his doosra. Broad stated that he only had a problem with the doosra, not Murali's normal off break.

According to the new procedure for investigating suspected illegal bowling actions, the ICC began a six-week review period, beginning on 1 April. During this period, Murali's bowling action was examined again by biomechanics experts at the University of Western Australia in Perth. They used motion-capture techniques and then subjected the videos to exhaustive 3-dimensional computer analysis, which took several days.

The absurdity of the six-week review process was clearly demonstrated when Sri Lanka toured Zimbabwe in April/May. While the report on his action was still being compiled at the University of Western Australia, the teams played a 5-ODI series, in which Murali continued to bowl his doosra. The report was released on 30 April, after the ODIs. It concluded that Muralitharan's doosra involved a straightening of the elbow by an angle of up to 14 degrees. Since the ICC guidelines on the interpretation of Law 24.3 Definition of fair delivery the arm stipulated a maximum straightening of 5 degrees for slow bowlers, this was clearly illegal under the rules. Even after some "technique remediation" by bowling coach Daryl Foster, Murali could not bowl the doosra without straightening his arm by at least 10 degrees.

The report went further, however. It suggested that the ICC guideline of 5 degrees may be too restrictive, and that off spinners whose doosras were not under question - in particular Harbhajan Singh, Saqlain Mushtaq, and Shoaib Malik - should also be analysed to determine a more appropriate guideline. And while this was done, the report suggested, Murali should be allowed to continue bowling his doosra. So the analysis had found Murali's action to be unequivocally illegal, yet recommended he continue being allowed to bowl it. The paradox seemed to be lost on the analysts.

The first Test was played from 6-10 May, just before the six-week review period ended. Again Murali bowled the doosra, taking 8/82 in the match and winning the Man of the Match award as Sri Lanka routed the C-grade Zimbabwe team by an innings and 240 runs. All this was possible because of the ICC provision that a bowler within the six-week review period cannot be reported again for a suspect bowling action. In other words, Murali had carte blanche to bowl deliveries now proven to be illegal under the Laws of Cricket and their official interpretive guidelines, without any fear whatsoever of being reported or suspended.

The World Record

As almost a sidelight to all this, Muralitharan took his 520th Test wicket during that match, getting Mluleki Nkala caught pushing forward to an off break, the ball snapped up by Mahela Jayawardene at silly mid off. What should have been the triumph of breaking Courtney Walsh's world record was muted by the overshadowing doubts about the legitimacy of his bowling. Had a cheater claimed the world record? Never before had such an obvious cause for acclaim received such a half-hearted response across the cricketing world.

The six-week review process ended on 13 May. The second Test against Zimbabwe began on 14 May. Just before the game started, Sri Lanka Cricket reported to the ICC that it had instructed Murali not to bowl his doosra any more. In a bizarre twist, Murali then denied having been told anything, and stated his intention to continue bowling doosras. The game began, watched by almost nobody for the cricket, but followed around the world to see what Murali would do. He didn't bowl a doosra in the game.

During the game, on 17 May, Australian Prime Minister John Howard publicly stated in a radio interview his belief that Muralitharan's doosra was illegal. This caused a stir of controversy, adverse comment against Howard and Australia in the Sri Lankan Parliament, and rumours that Muralitharan would pull out of the two-Test tour of Australia in June-July. On 15 June, Muralitharan announced he would not be touring Australia, citing "personal reasons". His decision surprised very few people

Warne's Charge

Sri Lanka toured Australia in June/July, playing two Tests, beginning on 1 July. Muralitharan's world record stood at 527 wickets, while Shane Warne was at 517. Warne took only 3 wickets in the first Test at Darwin as Michael Kasprowicz bowled Australia to a 159-run victory within three days. This left him 7 wickets short of Muralitharan, and 8 short of claiming the Test wicket record for himself. With Muralitharan not coming to Australia, this would be Warne's last chance of claiming the record before South Africa toured Sri Lanka.

The second Test in Cairns was a much more gripping affair. Australian captain Ricky Ponting stated on the evening before the game that if he won the toss, he would likely send Sri Lanka in to bat on the slightly green, Brisbane-like pitch. Whether this was a deliberate psychological ploy or not, it worked wonders, as Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu won the toss and unhesitatingly sent Australia in first.

With shades of Nasser Hussain's dreadful decision to send Australia in in Brisbane in 2002-03 hanging over the ground, Langer and Hayden posted a flying start with an opening stand of 255 runs in just 65 overs. Hussain's Englishmen had given away a first day score of 364/2 on that fateful day in Brisbane. Atapattu broke that record as Australia raced to 370/2 by stumps, having run the Sri Lankans ragged in the field all day.

Unlike England though, Sri Lanka came back strongly on day 2, Chandana and Malinga demolishing the last 7 wickets for just 63 runs as they dismissed Australia for 517, and then Atapattu and Sangakarra combining for a 138-run second-wicket stand as Sri Lanka built a solid 184/2 by stumps. Day 3 was interrupted by rain and bad light, but Sri Lanka guided their total to 411/5, and looked in a good position to establish a first innings lead.

Rain again shortened day 4, but Australia regained the initiative by dismissing Sri Lanka quickly for 455, and then building rapidly on their 62-run lead, ending the day at 194/2. A burst of runs early on day 5 and a declaration would see Australia placing pressure on Sri Lanka to survive. But Australia's fast bowlers had done the damage, and Warne left the first innings with only 3 more wickets, placing him 4 short of Muralitharan, and 5 short of the record.

Ponting elected to bat on until Australia's lead passed 350 runs - a decision seen by most observers as being too conservative. A lead of around 320 seemed sufficient, given the time Sri Lanka had to bat. Pressing on scored pointless runs and wasted valuable time for Australia's bowlers, especially as Australia's tail fell away, adding a mere 8 runs for the last 5 wickets before Ponting finally declared at 292/9.

Sri Lanka's target was 355, and they never looked like chasing it after Atapattu fell early to Gillespie. It would be a matter of survival. Warne had Jayasuriya caught behind on 22, taking him to 526 wickets. The next three fell quickly to McGrath, Gillespie, and a run out. With 30 overs left in the match, Sri Lanka were 136/5, Warne needing 4 of the remaining 5 wickets to claim the record.

He dismissed Kaluwitharana, caught at short leg by Lehmann. With the ball turning and bouncing fiercely off the pitch, Warne looked increasingly dangerous. Unfortunately, Adam Gilchrist experienced just how dangerous when a top edge flew up into his face, breaking his nose. But rather than leave the field and let a stand-in wicket-keeper attempt to deal with keeping to Warne, he called for a helmet and stayed on.

Warne produced an unplayable leg break which evaded the resistant and stubborn Sangakarra's bat and bowled him. He was now one short of Muralitharan. With 10 overs left in the game, Warne coaxed Chandana out of his crease and slipped a flipper past him; broken-nosed Gilchrist executed a perfect stumping in a split second as Chandana whirled back to the crease. Warne had equalled Muralitharan on 527 wickets. Now, with just 2 wickets needed for victory, could Warne take the one he needed to break the record?

The light rapidly began fading as Nuwan Zoysa joined Chaminda Vaas at the crease. Two bowlers were now being asked to hold out the rampant bowling legend in extremely poor batting conditions. The crowd willed the umpires into letting the players stay out in the descending twilight gloom. Ponting switched to an all-spin attack to remove any chance of pace bowling deciding the umpire's minds. So Lehmann alternated with Warne as they probed and attacked the batsmen. As the game went into the final few overs, Ponting called every Australian fielder into a tight ring of close catchers around the batsman.

To their eternal credit, Vaas and Zoysa took it all uncomplaining. Not once did they appeal to the umpires against the admittedly gloomy light. Instead they defended stolidly, blocking out Warne and Lehmann, knowing that only they lay between the bowlers and the batting bunny Malinga and Australian victory. The crowd were on the edge of their seats. They willed Warne to the world record more than Australia to win.

But it was not to be. Vaas and Zoysa, under immense pressure, saved the game for Sri Lanka and forced the draw. Australia won the series 1-0, and Warne was left equal world record holder with Muralitharan.

The Race Continued

In the first Test against South Africa at Galle in August, Muralitharan took 5 wickets to establish a clear lead on Warne again. He injured his shoulder, however, and was unable to play in the second Test, and remained out of cricket for several months.

Meanwhile, Shane Warne played in the series against India, in India. In the first Test, he remained a tantalising one wicket short of Muralitharan's 532. The second Test was anticlimactically drawn when the last day was rained out, with India stranded on 0/19 chasing a winning total of 229. Warne's six-wicket haul however took him to 537 wickets and sole possession of the record.


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