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Yousuf, Muralitharan outdo Aussies

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Despite Australia's utter dominance as the best team in test cricket, Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf and Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan finished 2006 as the sport's leading batsman and bowler.

Australia completed a perfect sweep of the 10 tests they played in the calendar year, including the first four matches against England to retain the Ashes.

Sri Lanka were the next best nation, winning six from 11, while England won five of 14 and Pakistan four from 12. Bangladesh and the once-mighty West Indies were the only countries not to win a single test in 2006.

Australians featured in all of the main individual statistics but Yousuf and Muralitharan finished top of the major categories.

Yousuf broke Viv Richards' 30-year-old world record for the most runs in a calendar year when he scored an astonishing 1,788 in 2006, including nine centuries, at an average of 99.33.

England's Kevin Pietersen was second with 1,343 from 14 matches at 53.72 while Australian captain Ricky Ponting was third with 1,333 at 88.86.

Muralitharan fell just short of Shane Warne's world record of 96 test wickets in a year, set in 2005, when he finished with 90 at 16.90.

South African seamer Makhaya Ntini was a distant second with 58 while Warne claimed 49 to take his career tally to 706 heading into his last match before retirement.


Discarded Australian pace bowler Jason Gillespie topped the batting averages for 2006 at 231 after making an unbeaten double-hundred in his last test appearance against Bangladesh.

Gillespie also finished second in the bowling averages behind South African part-time Ashwell Prince, whose lone victim came at an average cost of just nine.

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene's 374 against South Africa in Colombo was the highest score of the year, while Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 287 during a world record partnership of 624 with his skipper, had the second best for the year.

Muralitharan's 8-70 against England at Trent Bridge were the best bowling figures in 2006.

Yousuf broke Viv Richards' 30-year-old record with his 1788 runs.

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