Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sanath Jayasuriya & Muttiah Muralitharan bids farewell to Australia.

Australia's players line up as Sanath Jayasuriya walks out for his final innings on Australian soil, Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, 12th ODI, Melbourne, February 29, 2008

Very rarely do you see a guard of honour for a sportsman, especially in cricket, where the run of play has denied even the best of batsmen and bowlers one. But on Friday, at the MCG, there were three guards of honour for some of the all time greats of cricket.

First, the Australians did it as Sanath Jayasuriya walked into bat and a rush of wickets towards the end of Sri Lanka’s innings allowed them to stage another for Muttiah Muralitharan, and later, the Sri Lankans paid back the complement when they applauded Adam Gilchrist all the way to the crease.

It was the scene of the lowest point of his career, but Sri Lankan star Muttiah Muralitharan said his one regret about playing cricket in Australia was that he did not perform better at Test level.

Muralitharan, and fellow veteran Sanath Jayasuriya, bid farewell to Australia as international cricketers in Friday's tri-series clash with the home side at the MCG.

The Australian team formed a guard of honour for each player as they came out to bat and although the match carried little weight, with Sri Lanka missing the finals, Muralitharan and Jayasuriya went out on a winning note, the tourists recording a remarkable 13-run victory.

Both veterans played key roles in the result, Muralitharan bowling superbly and picking up two crucial wickets, while Jayasuriya secured the win when he bowled Brett Lee with his first ball when brought on in the 49th over.

Muralitharan, 35, said he bore no grudges against Australian cricket, despite being called for throwing in Melbourne in the 1995 Boxing Day Test and also later in Adelaide.

However, he said he would always regret not performing with more distinction in Australia in Test cricket.

"Sometime there were ups and downs in Australia, but still I enjoyed my cricket here," he said here after Friday's game.

"The Boxing Day was most memorable time for me, it was hard.

"I got over it, but still I want to play after that in Australia.

"So I tried to perform, but the only country I couldn't really perform in Tests was Australia.

"I played only five Tests and my average was not good enough, but in one-dayers I did really well in the Australia.

"But that disappointment will be there forever."

Muralitharan has taken 723 Test wickets, but managed just 12 wickets in five Tests in Australia at 72.41.

He was appreciative of the Australians recognising him and Jayasuriya.

"It's going to be the last tour for me, I won't be able to come any more to Australia, so it was a good honour," he said.

"We have been involved in the game for the last 17 years, Sanath for almost 20 years."

The 38-year-old Jayasuriya, who struggled to have his usual impact with the bat in the tri-series, said he would have fond memories of Australia.

"This is my last tour to Australia and I've enjoyed my cricket in Australia," he said.

"I'm disappointed only that we couldn't make the finals."

Despite a generally poor series, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was pleased his side finished the tour with a win.

"It has been a disappointing tournament, but the way we finished today showed a lot of character and we can take a lot of positives out of this game," he said.

"We had a lot of opportunities but we didn't take those opportunities and we can learn from that."

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