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Lara happy with his handling of Muralitharan

Gareth Chetwynd | June 25, 2003 15:57 IST

The latest contest between batsman Brian Lara and spin magician Muttiah Muralitharan ended in an honourable draw, the West Indies skipper said after Tuesday's first Test match with Sri Lanka.

Lara lit up a final day of a rain-affected match that was always destined for a draw with an inspired 209 in which he held Muralitharan at bay but scored more easily off the other bowlers.

The fiery off-spinner, on the other hand, took five wickets but had to bowl 50 overs and concede 138 runs to do so.

It was Prabath Nissanka, rather than Muralitharan, who finally dismissed Lara to end a glorious innings.

"What was important for us was to get runs, and Muralitharan had to bowl a lot of overs for his wickets," Lara said.

"I don't think that anybody won. It was a great contest and on many occasions I found myself struggling against his bowling and just had to tough it out."

Prior to the tour, Muralitharan had made it known that he was relishing the prospect of renewing a personal duel with the West Indies captain.

The 34-year old batsman grabbed the headlines in the last series between the two sides in 2001, plundering 688 runs at 114.66 for the second highest aggregate ever in a three-Test series.

Muralitharan took 24 wickets at 22.33 as Sri Lanka inflicted a 3-0 whitewash on the touring side, but dismissed Lara only twice.

The bowler has praised Lara's ability to read the wrist and move around the wicket better than any other batsman he has faced.

However, West Indies' number three batsman Wavell Hinds emulated his skipper by making liberal use of the sweep against Muralitharan for his own fine innings of 113.

The battle between Lara and Muralitharan will re-commence on Friday when the second of two Test matches begins in Jamaica.

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