Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 19 News List

McGrath routs Sri Lankan bat attack

DREAM RETURN Australian paceman Glen McGrath, playing in his first Test after a year-long injury lay-off, took 5 for 37 in 15 first-innings overs to skittle Sri Lanka for 97


England's Andrew Flintoff drives West Indies' Ravi Rampaul to the boundary during the NatWest series one day match at Headingley, Leeds on Thursday.


Glenn McGrath admitted yesterday there was a time when he feared he would not get past cricket legends Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee in his climb up the summit of leading Test wicket-takers.

McGrath, who went into his first Test in a year after a career-threatening ankle surgery, bounced back to his best with his 24th five-wicket Test haul of 5-37 off 15 overs to skittle Sri Lanka for 97 in their first innings.

The Sri Lankans are chasing an improbable 312 runs for victory with three days to play after dismissing Australia a second time for 201 in the last over yesterday.

The 34-year-old paceman leapfrogged New Zealander Hadlee (431) and India's Kapil Dev (434) as he moved to 435 wickets in his 96th Test match.

McGrath is now fourth all-time behind Sri Lankan world-record holder Muttiah Muralitharan on 527.

But doubts over whether he would recover sufficiently from last year's ankle surgery plagued him heading into this two-Test series against Marvan Atapattu's Sri Lankans.

"I couldn't be much happier, I played in the NT [Northern Territory Chief Minister's XI] game before here, I found a bit of form and worked out what was happening," McGrath told an end-day press conference yesterday.

"It all came back to my ankle, when my ankle was that little bit sore I wasn't bowling very well and didn't hit the crease and when it felt okay I ran through and hit the crease and that's what I have been trying to get back to for the last two years or more."

McGrath said it had been that long since he was happy with his bowling.

"I always knew it was in there somewhere, I just had to find out where it was and I've found it up here in Darwin," he said.

"The ankle was worrying me at the time I was out and I thought is it going to get any better, and if not then it's hard to run in that way to bowl.

"People were a little bit quick to write me off, it was more a case of how I felt I was going, what I felt like I could do and I wasn't thinking along the same lines as what some people were writing about me."

McGrath said he did wonder if he would catch Hadlee and Kapil Dev on the all-time wicket-taking list.

"Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev were both in front of me, not too many wickets away, and I did wonder if I would ever catch them," he said.

"So to get those five wickets today and go past those two legends of the game it's a pretty big buzz for me and to get that confidence back in this match.... I couldn't ask for much more."

The key for Sri Lanka to snatch an improbable victory over Australia in the first cricket Test here is to see off the new ball early on today's third day, wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara said yesterday.

The tourists have it all to do to avoid defeat as they chase 312 runs for victory, even though they have three days to achieve it.

"I think that's the key," said Sangakkara, one of his team's big hopes to defy the odds and win Sri Lanka's second Test match in Australia.

"It's always nice to see the new ball off and not have any wickets fall in the first 10 to 15 overs and set about the runs.

"But I still believe you have to play positive cricket, it's no use just trying to fend the new ball off because that's not the best approach, but to be circumspect in attack and then very solid in defense."

Sangakkara does not expect much of a change in pitch conditions when Sanath Jaysuriya and skipper Marvan Atapttu head to face the new ball today.

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