Murali can't split his top two spinners

Legendary Sri Lankan tweaker rates subcontinental pair as best of current crop

Sam Ferris, in Hyderabad

01 May 2016, 02:31 PM

There is perhaps no better person than the legendary Muthiah Muralidaran to judge who is the best spinner in the world today.

Muralidaran finished his prolific career as the greatest wicket-taker in the history of cricket to be, statistically, the best bowler of all time.

The diminutive Sri Lankan off-spinner with a rubber wrist, piercing stare and infectious smile, claimed 1,347 international wickets in 19 years at the highest level, of which 800 victims were collected in Test cricket, 534 in ODIs, and 13 in T20 internationals.

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He left the game in 2011 as the best in the business, but five years later, the man known as 'Murali' nominated two tweakers as the premier spinners currently playing.

"At the moment it's (India's Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Sri Lankan) Rangana Herath," Muralidaran told in Hyderabad.

"Both together match each other.

"Ashwin has performed better than Rangana Herath last year. I think those two bowlers are at the top at the moment."

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While it's hard to argue with the champion off-spinner's assessment, the pair he nominated share some good company.

In the past two years, Australian offie Nathan Lyon is the most prolific Test spinner with 83 wickets, ahead of Herath (80), Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah (76) and Ashwin (72).

However, Lyon snared his victims in 21 Tests while Herath (16 matches), Ashwin (13) and Shah (12) all had considerably less opportunities in which to snare their victims.

Herath fell one wicket short of capturing the perfect 10 when he bagged 9-127 against Pakistan in Colombo in August 2014. He backed up that performance with 5-57 in the second innings.

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Shah, who recently completed his three-month suspension for testing positive to a prohibited substance, averages more wickets per Test than his peers, taking 6.3 scalps per match.

The Pakistani took the cricket world by storm following his debut against Australia in October 2014, racing to 50 wickets in just his ninth Test. 

Ashwin has the best strike-rate among the quartet, striking every 43.1 deliveries, and has also taken seven five-wicket hauls and on two occasions 10 or more wickets for the match.

Herath recently announced his retirement from the limited-overs formats, with the intention of prolonging his Test career, and the Sri Lankan will be an ace in the pack for his side in the forthcoming series against England, and particularly on his home patch when Australia visits for a three-match Test series in July-August.