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Murali a huge hurdle for NZ

Colombo: The challenge of mastering Sri Lanka’s hot and humid conditions or the low-bounce sub-continental pitches fades in significance for New Zealand’s cricketers when compared with the prospect of facing off-spinner Muttiah Muralidharan in the two-Test series starting Friday.

Five years ago, New Zealand squandered a first-Test victory to succumb to a 1-2 loss in their last tour to Sri Lanka as the batsmen were foxed by Muralidharan’s treacherous tweakers.

Muralidharan’s 19-wicket haul in three Tests dashed New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming’s dream of winning a Test series in Sri Lanka, and the ace spinner says he wasn’t even in his prime then.

“I’ve added more variety to my spinning art in recent years,” says Murali, who is the country’s highest wicket-taker with 437 dismissals in 73 Tests and is aiming to overhaul the 500-mark this year in Tests against New Zealand, the West Indies and England in the pipeline. Contemporary cricket’s most bewildering yet controversial spinner, Murali says he’s prepared to give up playing oDIs to chase this dream. (AP)

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