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Published: Saturday, July 14, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Colombo: Sri Lanka's Muthiah Muralitharan grabbed eight wickets for 87 runs to send India crashing to 234 all out on the opening day of the third and decisive Test on Wednesday.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The wily off spinner claimed his 26th five-wicket haul as India caved in after being 97 for no loss in good batting conditions at the Sinhalese sports club (SSC) ground.Sri Lanka was 13-0 in six overs before stumps, taking the early advantage as the rivals attempt to break the 1-1 deadlock in the series. Bowling unchanged for 34.1 overs on an overcast and humid day, Muralitharan fell just short of his best figures of nine for 65 against England at the Oval.Left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas chipped in with two for 60 as the Indians dug themselves in a hole after skipper Saurav Ganguly won the toss and elected to take first strike.Shiv Das (59) and Sadagopan Ramesh produced India's best opening stand of the series, before Muralitharan hit back with three wickets for six runs in a devastating post-lunch session for the Indians.Ganguly himself was distinctly unlucky to be given out leg-before by South African umpire Dave Orchard, but most of the other top-order batsmen fell to reckless strokes after settling in.Ganguly stepped out and padded the ball pitched outside the off-stump and moving further away, but Orchard upheld Muralitharan's appeal to the astonishment of the batsman.Muralitharan now has more five-wicket hauls than any other Test bowler except Richard Hadlee of New Zealand, who did it 36 times, and Ian Botham of England (27).The 29-year-old, cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) of a controversial bowling action, has taken 336 wickets in 65 Tests. "It's good to be among the wickets because I was disappointed when we lost the second Test at Kandy last week," Muralitharan said."I should have taken more than the four wickets I got there, but I am happy to contribute here after India made a good start."Ganguly, prohibited by ICC regulations on speaking against umpiring decisions, blamed his batsmen's poor approach instead. "With a start like that we had no business to get out so quickly," he said. "The batsmen just threw it away. We were just not disciplined."Unlike the two previous Tests, where the team winning the toss chose to field first, Ganguly had no hesitation in taking first strike on the even-paced wicket.Muralitharan's destructive spell came after Ramesh and Das batted through the entire morning session to go to lunch on 91 for no loss. Das added only two runs to his lunch score of 57 when he charged down the wicket to Muralitharan, missed the line and was bowled.The rash stroke undid the good work of the morning when Das collared the Sri Lankan attack with 10 boundaries on both sides of the wicket. Ramesh was dismissed in the 40s for the third time in the series when he lunged at a wide ball from the off spinner and offered a tame catch to Mahela Jayawardene in the slips.The left-hander, who made 42 in the first Test and 47 in the second, was dismissed for 46 this time. After Ganguly was given out by Orchard, there was further trouble in store for the Indians when Mohammad Kaif edged Vaas to wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara after making 14.It was the left-arm seamer's 150th Test wicket in his 51st match. India, who went to tea at 155 for four, lost Rahul Dravid and Sameer Dighe in the space of three balls from Muralitharan after the break.Dravid, looking increasingly confident while making 36, flicked to short-leg where Hashan Tillekeratne brought off a sharp catch. Dighe was trapped leg-before offering no stroke, while Hemang Badani fell to a catch at gully after making a fluent 38.

AFP
Copyright AFP 2001

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