Island Cricket

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ponting warns bats about pacemen

SRI Lankan fast bowler Chaminda Vaas has taken more Test wickets than Australia's combined pace attack.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting has warned his teammates not to become "Murali-centric" for fear of underestimating Sri Lanka's potent quick men.
The Australians are confident they still have the arsenal to dislodge any batting line-up, but the Sri Lankans will boast a more experienced attack this summer now Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have retired.

Mutthiah Muralitharan needs only nine wickets to become the greatest Test wicket-taker of all time, and his figures shadow those of spinning counterpart Stuart MacGill.

The fiery leg-spinner will step up his preparations in NSW's Pura Cup clash against Queensland at the SCG, beginning today, after confirming yesterday he had recovered from a knee injury.

Sri Lanka will also possess a far better credentialled pace line-up, with veteran spearhead Vaas having more wickets (319) than the combined haul of Australia's expected speed blitz of Brett Lee (231), Stuart Clark (47) and the uncapped Mitchell Johnson.

If round-arm slinger Lasith Malinga (83) and the strongly built Dilhara Fernando (77) team with left-armer Vaas and Muralitharan, the tourists will have a considerable advantage in experience of 153 Tests and 703 wickets.

Ponting believes the tall Fernando, who can notch speeds of more than 145km/h, will be a danger on Brisbane and Hobart wickets which should suit his pace and bounce.

"I watched a fair bit of the one-day series they played against England in Sri Lanka (last month) and he looks like he is in good form at the moment," Ponting said yesterday at the launch of his latest tour diary.

"He looks like he has got his confidence up. He is one of those guys who might struggle for his rhythm and bowl a lot of no-balls and that sort of thing. But it looks as if he has sorted a lot of that out."

Australian batsman Mike Hussey also regards Fernando, who is expected to be used at first change, as one of the game's big improvers.

"I think he is one of the most improved bowlers in the world," Hussey said.

"He is a big, strong guy, runs in all day and is very disciplined. He is going to be a real handful.

"They have great variety in somebody like Malinga who gives that X-factor, much like Shaun Tait.

"Obviously they have the experience of Vaas and then you have Murali.

"They have a brilliantly rounded attack and lots of variety and it's going to provide a huge challenge for our batting." Muralitharan captured 28 wickets when the sides last met in a Test series – in Sri Lanka three years ago.

Although his figures were ultimately impressive, he struggled to dislodge Australia's top order and the tourists completed a 3-0 series rout.

If the world champions can handle Sri Lanka's speedsters, it will put more pressure on Muralitharan and go a long way to blunting the spin wizard who preys on tailenders.

"We'll do our best to play him as well as we can," Ponting said.

"We actually have played him well in the past. He has come out and said he feels Australian batsmen play him better than any other.

"That's a good wrap for us but that doesn't mean he won't have a good series here."

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