Sri Lankan cricket veteran has Shane Warne in his sights
HE'S 39 years old, has just eclipsed Glenn McGrath and has Shane Warne in his sights - Rangana Herath is a special player.
Having spent a decade waiting in the wings as Muttiah Muralitharan spun the most impressive of webs for Sri Lanka, Herath has forged a career any bowler would be proud of, and one unlike any player in history.
The beguiling left-hander became just the fifth bowler to ever take more than 30 five-wicket hauls in Test cricket this week and the fifth to take 10 wickets in a Test eight times. That's remarkable considering he had neither a five-for or 10-for to his name when he turned 30.
Take a closer look at the astonishing things Herath has achieved.
CHASING DOWN WARNIE
After snapping up five wickets in Zimbabwe's first innings on Friday, Herath grabbed another six in their second innings on Monday to finish with 11 wickets. The ageless finger-spinner has now taken 10 wickets in a Test on eight occasions.
That's as many times as Indian great Anil Kumble managed in his 132 Tests - and he was a fixture in India's XI by the time he was in his mid-20s. In fact, only three players - Richard Hadlee (nine), Warne (10) and Muralitharan (22) - have enjoyed more 10-wicket Tests. Not bad at all for a man who only played 12 Tests before he turned 30.
Now 39 years old, Herath stands next to no chance of chasing down Murali's remarkable 22 10-fors - it's a record that may never be eclipsed - but second place is well within his reach. Although 10-wicket matches are rare, Herath's form suggests he is good enough to match - or even eclipse - Warne's haul of 10 10-wicket matches. In the past 12 months alone he has taken 10 wickets in a match on three occasions - India's Ravichandran Ashwin is the only other bowler to have taken three in this period - and he has taken at least one 10-for in each of the past six calendar years.
Herath went into Sri Lanka's Test against Zimbabwe with 29 five-fors to his name, level with Glenn McGrath. He will finish it - there's a day to go - with two more than the all-time great. The Sri Lankan is now only the fifth bowler in history to take more than 30 Test five-fors and the first to do so with his left-hand - the next most by a left-handed bowler is 25 by Wasim Akram and the next best by a left-handed spinner is 20 by Daniel Vettori.
Herath is still some way behind fourth-placed Kumble, who took 35 Test five-fors, but the Indian icon is still well within his reach - as is third-placed Hadlee (36) and at a stretch second-placed Warne (37). Once again, his compatriot Muralitharan has a firm grip on top spot with a scarcely believable 67.
Weighing in Herath's favour is the fact Sri Lanka is pencilled in to play 11 more Tests in Asia over the next 12 months - the spinner takes a five-for roughly every four innings on the continent and enjoys a 10-wicket match about every eight games.
TOP OF THE OVER-30s
By the time Herath turned 30 he had only played 12 Tests and taken 35 wickets.
Since then he has taken a further 349 wickets from 69 Tests. That's the most wickets by a bowler after turning 30 ever and there's daylight between himself and second-placed Warne, who claimed 301 scalps across his 53 matches after turning 30.
And all 31 of Herath's five-fors have come since he turned 30 - the next most is 24 by compatriot Muralitharan. He still trails Murali when it comes to 10-fors after turning 30, but it would be far from surprising if he claimed this record as his own. He only trails the wizardly offie by one 10-wicket match.