Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan becomes the highest ever test wicket taker
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Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan claimed his 709th test wicket to surpass the world record set by retired Australian legspinner Shane Warne.

Muralitharan, playing in his 116th test, reached the milestone when he bowled England's Paul Collingwood for 45 during the third day's play at his home ground of Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy.

The 35 year old, had a frustrating first spell, bowling nine overs without success and conceding 19 runs.

His breakthrough came in the first over of his second spell, the 26th of the day, when he clipped Collingwood's middle stump.

The dismissal was met with a rousing cheer from the bowler's home crowd and bursting fireworks as his teammates rushed to offer their congratulations.

Muralitharan said he was pleased to have been able to break the record at Kandy, rather than on the just completed tour of Australia.

"It's my hometown, my parents are here, my wife is here ... all the relatives are here and all my schoolfriends,'' he said.

"Everybody is here. It's a bigger moment than if I had taken it in Australia, it's the right time I think.

"It's not easy to take six wickets in an innings, I managed to let my pressure off now."

Muralitharan has only taken 12 wickets at 75 in five tests in Australia.

His averages at home and against England are much better.

Muralitharan equaled Warne's mark on Sunday, claiming four wickets before play was abandoned at tea due to rain.

The offspinner previously held the record in 2004 when he overhauled West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh's mark of 519 wickets, only to be surpassed by Warne.

Congratulations

Party time: Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates
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In July, Muralitharan entered an exclusive club with Warne when he brought up his 700th wicket.

Warne was quick to congratulate his successor Monday.

"Congratulations to Murali, he's been a wonderful player for a long period of time," Warne said.

"He's an excellent competitor and he's been great for Sri Lankan cricket.

"He'll probably go on and get 1,000 (wickets) now, but today I would just like to say well done on the record," he added.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse congratulated Muralitharan soon after his record-breaking effort.

"Your achievement makes Sri Lanka proud and brings new glory to Sri Lanka cricket," Rajapakse said in a statement.

"Your success today is greater as it was achieved in the midst of many challenges which you were able to overcome through the years you have been representing Sri Lanka in cricket," he added.

"This achievement is a reward for your dedication to the game of cricket, especially to your immense contributions as a team player and commitment to the spirit of sportsmanship."

The Sri Lankan postal department has also released a commemorative stamp in the shape of a cricket ball bearing Muralitharan's portrait in honor of the record.

Muralitharan has long stated his goal of claiming 1,000 Test wickets, and former Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody said he believes he will reach it provided his body holds up.

"If his body holds together and he's still got the burning desire to achieve those personal milestones, he's going to do it, simple as that," said the Australian, who now coaches Western Australia state.

Kandy's Asgiriya Stadium is a lucky charm for Muralitharan.

It was at this ground he first rose to prominence, created records as a teenager for St. Anthony's school, before equaling Warne's 700 wickets against Bangladesh.

Doosra debate

Muralitharan's ability to turn the ball comes from his unorthodox wristy offspin, and an elbow bent since birth.

That bent joint has been central to the debate over his bowling action.

The legitimacy of his bowling action came to a head in 1995 in Australia, when home umpire Darrell Hair no-balled Muralitharan for "throwing" during a test match in Melbourne.

His action was subsequently cleared by an Australian biomechanics expert, but he was no-balled again in Australia in 1998 and reported by English match referee Chris Broad in Sri Lanka in 2004.

The International Cricket Council, after a major investigation, ruled that due to his birth abnormality, his action is legal.

Despite the controversy, Muralitharan has become the most potent bowlers in contemporary cricket using his trademark "doosra", topspinners and varying angles.

Wisden, the authoritative cricket almanac, named Muralitharan the best cricketer for 2006.

Muralitharan's achievement on the cricket field has made him a household name in Sri Lanka and a source of hope and inspiration to a nation battered by decade of civil war.

His status as the only Tamil in the national team links together the two warring parties on the national cricket team.

Warne, 37, who retired in January and is now playing county cricket in England, claimed his 708 wickets from 145 tests.