Murali’s late strikes leave second Test evenly poised

Colombo, August 6 :

Muttiah Muralitharan became only the second man to complete 100 Test wickets against South Africa, reaching the milestone on Sunday as he tried desperately to keep Sri Lanka in with a chance in the second Test.

South Africa finished the third day at 257-7, an overall lead of 297 with three wickets in hand. Sri Lanka has only once chased anything more than 300 to win a Test, but the wicket is offering little to the seamers and the South African attack too could struggle.

Muralitharan started the second Test with 92 wickets against South Africa and, after claiming his 55th five wicket haul in the first innings, needed three more to join Shane Warne as the only men to take 100 wickets against the Proteas.

The 34-year-old now has 654 Test wickets, behind only Australian legspinner Warne (685) on the list of all-time wicket takers. Muralitharan removed opener Hershelle Gibbs with the final ball before the tea interval and captured another three wickets in the evening session to finish the day with 4-86 — lifting his tally to 101 career wickets against South Africa.

Gibbs, who had struggled in the series with scores of 18, 19 and 0, returned to form with 92 runs. In all Gibbs hit 11 fours and a six and was dismissed on the stroke of tea.

Sri Lanka managed just the wicket of Andrew Hall in the first session but hit back with three wickets each subsequent session.

There were two run outs — the first happening in controversial circumstances. A confident appeal for lbw against Gibbs was turned down and as the batsmen sprinted for leg-byes, Upul Tharanga at the third man boundary dived to keep the ball in play and then fired a direct hit on the stumps with the batsman still short of his ground.

The issue was whether the fielder had kept the ball in play and the on field umpires referred it to third umpire. Replays showed that Tharangas hand was very close to the boundary, but since it was inconclusive, umpire Tyronne Wijewradene gave the decision in favor of the fielder. Amla was run out when he turned the ball on the leg-side and set off for a quick single but was sent back by Gibbs after he had come half way down the track. Chamara Kapugedara picked up and cleanly returned the ball to the strikers end to complete the dismissal.

South Africa needs a win to square the two-match series after its innings defeat in the first Test last week.