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Cricket World Cup: Muralitharan ready for England match

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 quarter-final: Sri Lanka v England
Venue: Colombo Date: Saturday, 26 March (0900 GMT)
Coverage: Highlights on BBC Two (see listings), Red Button & online at 2200 GMT (UK only); live Test Match Special commentary (BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online); text commentary online and mobiles; live on Sky Sports


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Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has told the BBC that he will be fit to play against England in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final in Colombo.

The 38-year-old off-spinner pulled his hamstring in the last group match against New Zealand on 18 March.

But having had some time off after that match, Muralitharan is ready again.

"It was just a small strain, although it was difficult in that match. I'm 90 per cent fit and will definitely play and I can bowl 10 overs," he said.

"We love to play here because it is home advantage and we know the wicket and conditions well. Our record at the ground is good and we are confident."

But Muralitharan told former England captain and BBC analyst Michael Vaughan that batting first was no longer as much of an advantage as it was in previous days.

"It's about 70/30 in favour of the side who bats first," he said. "It used to be 80 or 90 per cent in their favour but because they changed the pitch a bit and the lights are better than before, that advantage has gone.

I'm not going to think that Saturday is my last game - I think I have two more games to play and this is what I want to believe

Muttiah Muralitharan

"This wicket sometimes spins a lot but I saw the wicket for Saturday's game and it will not spin a lot but it will spin a bit.

"It will be a good surface, but it won't be a 300 surface - it will be a 260/270 surface so whoever bats first could have a good advantage. You can't get 300 here because the wickets aren't as good as in India."

Muralitharan retired from Test cricket last year but remained in the limited-overs set-up although he announced in January that the World Cup would be his final international tournament.

He strained his right hamstring when he dived while batting against New Zealand but still managed to take 4-25 in Sri Lanka's convincing 112-run victory to bring his wicket total in this World Cup to 11.

Muralitharan, who became the first bowler to take 800 Test wickets on the final day of his Test career last July, would pose a real threat to the England batsmen on a surface which is likely to suit the Sri Lanka slow bowlers.

Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss, who is also stepping down from his post after the tournament, said the team's attack was about more than just one bowler.

"He [Muralitharan] is certainly an important part of the team but 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.

"Apart from maybe a 20-over stint in our batting against Pakistan, we've played some very good quality cricket. That's what we've tried to achieve over the last few years to play consistently good cricket."

But although this could be Muralitharan's final match, he is refusing to approach Saturday's game differently.

"I'm not going to think that Saturday is my last game - I think I have two more games to play and this is what I want to believe.

"It will be just like another match and go into it like that I'm trying to enjoy myself whether I take five wickets or go for 60 or 70 runs. As long as I go and enjoy it I don't care. I'm not going to put pressure on myself to do something just because it might be my last match. "

Muttiah Muralitharan was talking to Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special - the full interview can be heard during the interval of the Sri Lanka v England match on Saturday.



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see also
England 'do not fear Sri Lanka'
22 Mar 11 |  England
My mate Murali
20 Mar 11 |  Sri Lanka
India win sets up Aussie showdown
20 Mar 11 |  Cricket
England face tough Sri Lanka test
20 Mar 11 |  England
Muralitharan keen to end on a high
21 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Muralitharan sets retirement date
21 Jan 11 |  Sri Lanka
Muralitharan takes 800th wicket
22 Jul 10 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011
09 Mar 11 |  Cricket


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