SRI Lankan spin sensation Muttiah Muralitharan's future as Lancashire's overseas player may be not be cut and dried.

But assuming he is permitted by his country to take up the Old Trafford post this summer then one thing is certain - he will be the most scrutinised player on the county circuit thanks to his controversial bowling action.

Muralitharan was called for throwing in a recent one-day international against England in Australia where he has fallen foul of officialdom before.

Having had his action cleared by the ICC, however, Lancashire are presumably not too concerned about the legality of his bowling.

It's a thorny issue but not one that is new to this part of the world.

The Lancashire League has had its list of suspects down the years, the latest being Bacup slow left-armer Neil Wilkinson who ran into trouble in 1991.

Happily for Wilkinson, though, he weathered the storm and is still playing today as captain of Bacup's second team.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that Wilkinson was first no-balled in Bacup's derby clash with Haslingden, who went on to win the Lancashire League title that year, when Wilkinson was just one of three bowlers in the Bacup side.

Wilkinson was called three times but went on to complete a 10-over spell. He was subsequently no-balled in two other games without ever being withdrawn from the attack, although he did finish one over bowling under-arm.

"I didn't miss any games. Some people believe I play in the second team because I'm frightened of being called if I play in the first team.

"That's not the case. If I was required to play and if they needed me next season I would still play.

"I fought it. It was a bit uncomfortable at the time, although you don't let it show," he said.

Wilkinson, who is also chairman of the cricket and selection committees at Bacup, believes a peculiar quirk in his action and run-up led some people to question his technique.

Ironically, he was given the all-clear by David Lloyd, then a first-class umpire, who was not so forgiving of Muralitharan's action in his position as England coach last summer.

"I had someone come to watch me and they explained there was some doubt about the legality.

"But we did a video and sent it David Lloyd and he approved it," added Wilkinson.

"There were always people who queried my action but most people and most umpires accepted it.

"When I played in later weeks umpires came up to me before the game and said they had no problem with me and asked which end I was going to bowl so they would stand at square leg."

There have been have been occasional question marks over his action since then, but Wilkinson remains unperturbed as it appears throwing isn't his strong suit. "I can't throw the ball in from the boundary because of my shoulder. I have to bowl it in.

"I am still bowling the same stuff, doubtless with the same action," he said.

Wilkinson believes there is something of a vendetta against Muralitharan and has some sympathy for the Sri Lanka sensation, who reached 200 Test wickets quicker even than Shane Warne and bowled England to defeat in their one-off Test last season.

He added: "To be called in a match like that (the one-day international against England) is out of order. I haven't seen enough of him to really comment but there has got to be a decision made, not in a match, if he is throwing."

That decision has apparently been made by the cricketing hierarchy so Muralitharan should be in the clear.

However, he made need to share Wilkinson's sense of humour when he arrives in England.

"Going round the pubs and seeing my mates they all remind me of it. They still call me 'Chucker Wilks' but I've got no problem with that. You've got to have a bit of banter," he said.

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