A Sri Lankan cricketer has arguably achieved one of the greatest ever landmarks in sports, and did it with no small sense of drama. The spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan took his 800th test wicket Thursday in the final game of his Test career.
The 38-year-old began the match against India on 792 wickets, and the cricket world has been following the game (which can last for five days) with incredible interest. No player had ever reached the seemingly impossible target. (To get further perspective, read Bobby Ghosh’s TIME piece here).
Indeed, Murali’s great rival, the Australian Shane Warne, has said that the Sri Lankan’s wicket haul will never be beaten, telling Sky Sports, “I don’t think anyone will get there, so well done to Murali for getting his 800.”
Despite being plagued by accusations of bowling the ball in a manner not befitting the sport — former Australian Prime Minister John Howard even called Murali a “chucker” — this nevertheless ranks as one of cricket’s finest ever moments. For the record, the decisive wicket was that of India’s Pragyan Ojha, who was caught by the safe hands of Mahala Jayawardene at first slip. Adding to the tension was the constant threat that the heavens might open, thus causing a delay to the game, which could have denied Murali his magic moment.
But the cricketing gods kept the rain at bay. Indeed, it brings to mind the late John Updike’s piece for The New Yorker, when he witnessed the Boston Red Sox’s Ted Williams hitting a home run at Fenway Park in his final ever at bat. “Gods don’t answer letters,” wrote Updike in 1960 about Williams’s refusal to emerge for a curtain call. In sport’s modern era, however, Murali will surely respond to each and every letter that comes his way.