Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss is confident Muttiah Muralitharan will recover from a hamstring injury and compete in their World Cup quarter-final against England on Saturday. Muralitharan, who did not bowl in his team’s net session on Wednesday, was confirmed by Bayliss to have bowled for 20 minutes in another practice facility adjacent to the R. Premadasa Stadium. “We are very confident that he will play and I think he’s pretty confident he will play as well,” Bayliss said. “He’s a guy who has played through a few niggles in the past and I’m sure he will be fine come game day.”
Muralitharan, the world’s most prolific bowler in Test and ODI cricket, strained his right hamstring when he dived while batting in the last group match against New Zealand. The off-spinner managed to take 4-25 in Sri Lanka’s convincing 153-run victory, increasing his wicket tally to 11 in the 2011 World Cup.
With Muralitharan likely to pose the main threat against the English batsmen on the sub-continent wicket, coach Bayliss was quick to point out that his attack consisted of more than just one bowler. “You have a look at some of the guys like (Ajantha) Mendis, (Angelo) Mathews those type of guys (and) Thisara Perera, they’ve done extremely well and have played a big part in the success of our team,” he said.
Bayliss remains wary of England, though, despite a less than convincing run into the quarter-final, which defeats to minnows Ireland and Bangladesh. “Somewhere along the line they will have a good game, so we are going to approach this match as though they are playing some very good cricket,” Bayliss said. “We are under no illusions.”
Sri Lanka who finished second behind Pakistan in Group A , were disappointed with their first two games, where they suffered an 11 run defeat to Pakistan and a rained-out draw against Australia, but rallied hard to comfortably overcome Zimbabwe and New Zealand in their remaining fixtures.
“Apart from maybe a 20-over stint in our batting against Pakistan, we’ve played some very good quality cricket,” Bayliss said. “That’s what we’ve tried to achieve over the last few years to play consistently good cricket.”
Bayliss will no doubt remember the England team that beat them 3-2 in the 2007 limited-over series in Sri Lanka, with the likes of Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood and James Anderson all competing for the tourists. “Yeah England did beat us … when I first came almost four years ago,” he said. “They’ve got players who have been successful here in the past. Our guys know that, they know they are in for a hard match.”
The relaid wicket at the 35,000-capacity stadium has given encouragement to the teams chasing targets, which proved difficult in the past. Sri Lanka nearly chased down Pakistan’s 277-7 in the group match before falling short at the last hurdle. “The wickets are lot easier to bat second than it was 2-3 years ago,” Bayliss said. “Whatever score is made in the first innings, the team batting second is quite capable of knocking those runs off.”
Other matches at the venue, however, have been quite the opposite, producing low scoring affairs due to the lack of bounce and pace in the wicket. Despite coming close to beating Pakistan, Bayliss hinted batting first could still be a better option. “Probably the wicket slows up a little bit and makes it more difficult for batting,” he said. “But I think more than anything it’s the mindset.”