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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 15:02 GMT
Murali injury scare for Sri Lanka
Muttiah Muralitharan
Muralitharan returned after treatment on his thigh
Muttiah Muralitharan is expected to miss Sri Lanka's match against England on Friday after pulling a thigh muscle in the loss to Australia.

The spinner, only recently returned from hernia surgery, limped from the field but returned after chasing a ball in the outfield in the 39th over.

He returned and, off a shortened run-up, dismissed Shane Watson for four,

Murali finished with four for 27 to move ahead of India's Anil Kumble into third place on the list of leading wicket-takers.

But it was not enough to prevent the tourists slipping to a four wicket defeat.

"It's a pull of the thigh muscle in front of the left leg," Sri Lanka team manager Ajit Jayasekera said.

"It's a pull, not a tear so there's a bit of hopeful news for us. He should be fit for the World Cup."

Murali expects to be fit should Sri Lanka reach the best-of-three finals series, but they must win at least one of the remaining two games to enhance their chances.

The news will come as a relief to Sri Lanka, who begin their World Cup campaign against New Zealand on 10 February.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting said that batting was a worry for his side after a mid-innings collapse saw three wickets fall for the addition of six runs.

"The bowling and fielding wasn't bad but there's some work to do on the batting, unusually for us," Ponting said.

"But I'm sure we'll get there in a week's time."

Australia's final group match is against England in Adelaide on Sunday.

England take on Australia and Sri Lanka

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