Sri Lanka confident about Muralitharan playing England game

Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss feels that veteran spinner Muttiah Muralitharan will be fit to face England

Colombo: Mar 23, 2011

Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss believes spin king Muttiah Muralitharan will be fit to face England in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-finals.

The 38-year-old off-spinner — who has a world record 530 one-day wickets — pulled his hamstring in the Group A match against New Zealand and had shortened nets on Wednesday. But Bayliss said Muralitharan will play on Saturday.

“Murali did bowl for some 20 minutes today. We are very confident that he will play and I think he’s pretty confident too he will play because he is a guy who’s played through niggles in the past,” said Bayliss.

Bayliss, who is due to step down after this World Cup following four years in charge, said Muralitharan is a vital cog in Sri Lankan plans. “He’s certainly an important part of the team,” said Bayliss of Muralitharan, who has taken 11 wickets in the tournament so far, with a best of 4-25 against the Black Caps in Sri Lanka’s 112-run win in Mumbai.

The coach added that he expected a tough challenge from England despite Andrew Strauss’s team having endured a roller-coaster tournament which saw them beat West Indies and South Africa but lose to Ireland and Bangladesh. “English teams always have strong back-ups, they’ve obviously lost a few players due to injury, but there back-up strength is usually deep and they are professionals, so it will be a tough game on Saturday,” said Bayliss.

Since the start of the tournament England have lost key batsman Kevin Pietersen and frontline bowlers in Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shahzad, all to injury.

But Bayliss feels England’s close matches against South Africa and the West Indies have made them battle-hardened. “They have played very good cricket and have had close situations towards the end of the game. Overall we believe that they will come out and have a good approach,” said Bayliss.

He said playing before the home crowd at R. Premadasa stadium will be an encouragement for his players. “The guys are used to it, they play with that expectation all the time. The best players enjoy the situation that egg them on to actually perform better, playing in front of that big crowd,” said Bayliss.

The winner of the Sri Lanka-England quarter-final will meet the winner of South Africa-New Zealand match (in Dhaka on March 25) in the semi-final in Colombo on March 29.

The other semi-final will be between the winner of the first quarter-final (Pakistan v West Indies in Dhaka on Wednesday) and India-Australia (in Ahmedabad on Thursday).