ICL: Indian Cricket League

Depleted South Africa no cakewalk, says Murali


Injury-hit South Africa received unexpected support for the first Test against Sri Lanka starting here on Thursday from the man likely to cause them the biggest headache.

Sri Lanka’s prolific off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan said the Proteas will be tough to beat in the two-match series despite being crippled by the absence of three key players, including captain Graeme Smith. Smith and leading all-rounder Jacques Kallis are recovering at home from injuries while veteran Shaun Pollock opted to skip the first Test at the Sinhalese sports club following the birth of his second child.

“Lots of people think the series will be a cakewalk for us, but that is not going to happen,” said Muralitharan, whose 635 Test wickets are bettered only by Australian record-holder Shane Warne’s 685. “They are a very competitive side. They may lack two or three key players, but they’ll still push us hard. We can’t take them lightly.

“We may be the favourites because we are playing at home, but we will have to play very well. England is over. You just can’t keep admiring past performances,” the 34-year-old said.

Sri Lanka enjoyed a successful tour of England recently where they fought back to draw the Test series 1-1 and blanked the hosts 5-0 in the one-dayers.

Sri Lanka have drafted in reserve wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene to bat at number seven and allow Kumar Sangakkara to concentrate on his batting. “With so much cricket being played, Kumar was finding it a bit hard to bat and keep wickets,” the captain said. “He can now concentrate on his batting and leave Prasanna to do the keeping.” Jayawardene hinted that Sanath Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka’s most successful Test batsman with 6,621 runs in 103 matches, may once again open the innings, displacing young Michael Vandort who opened in England. “We have not finalised anything yet but Sanath is a genuine opener and has been successful,” said Jayawardene.

“You have got to take tough decisions. Michael has done well, but you can’t ignore Sanath for his experience and form.” South Africa’s stand-in captain Ashwell Prince, 29, said the tourists were geared for the battle ahead.

“We will obviously miss our three big players but it’s an opportunity for others to show their worth,” said the left-handed batsman who has played in 21 Tests. “We have had a good outing in the three-day game with most of our batsmen getting runs and the bowlers also had a good work out.”


South Africa (from): Ashwell Prince (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Boeta Dippenaar, Hashim Amla, Jacques Rudolph, A.B. De Villiers, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Nicky Boje, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Dale Steyn.

Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Farveez Maharoof, Prasanna Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara and Michael Vandort.

Source:The News

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