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Posts Tagged ‘murali’

The build-up to India’s Test series with Sri Lanka has been somewhat overshadowed by the continuing coverage of Sachin Tendulkar’s 20th year in international cricket, but with top spot in the ICC Test Rankings up for grabs, the contest has much to offer.

Sri Lanka’s record in India suggests that the tourists will face a tough task. The bulk of responsibility for scoring runs is likely to fall on the usual suspects, who have in the past made huge scores on benign pitches but struggled in difficult conditions. As for the bowlers, only Murali has a strong track record in India, so the others will need to step up if the side are to succeed. Herath should edge out Mendis for the second spin slot, although the latter’s magical showing against the same opposition last year may inspire his inclusion at some stage.

For the hosts, Zaheer Khan’s return (along with Sreesanth) should revitalise the pace attack, whilst a chief concern could be adjusting back to Test cricket after more than six months of limited-overs matches. The lack of Test matches has been picked up on by the man of the hour, and many of the players in the side may take some time to realign their approaches.

This is a key series for India in their mission to become the best side in the world, and a series victory for the home side will be widely expected.

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Poor Ajantha Mendis. Little more than a year ago he was the Next Big Thing, the Great White Hope, even the New Murali. Now, not only has he seemingly been usurped in the Sri Lankan pecking order of spinners by Rangana Herath, he may not even be the most prominent cricketing Mendis of the moment.

That distinction falls to Buddika Mendis, one of the stars of Singapore’s campaign in the World Cricket League Division 6 competition. The home side, coached by Trevor Chappell, have gained promotion to Division 5 with a game to spare largely due to the efforts ofthe tournament’s top run scorer so far, including 193 runs in the last two days.

Singapore will now be heading to Nepal next year for the next stage of qualification for the 2015 World Cup, with either Malaysia or Bahrain likely to join them.

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Away from the tension, hype and seagulls (yes, honestly, seagulls) of the build-up to the final Ashes Test, New Zealand and Sri Lanka are preparing for a Test series of their own.

For most of the tourists, Test cricket in Sri Lanka will be a new experience (only three members of the Black Caps’ squad have played a Test in Sri Lanka before). Their recent record is a cause for concern – a mere four Tests won in the last two-and-a-half years (with three of those coming against Bangladesh). None of the likely front-line bowlers have much experience of Sri Lankan conditions, which may prove costly. The likes of Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder will be taking a step into the unknown, and – on recent form – New Zealand’s top order is hardly likely to set them up with a comfortable platform to do so.

The hosts will be comfortable favourites, and will be looking to sneak the Number 2 spot in the ICC Test Rankings. Ajantha Mendis looks set to miss out given Rangana Herath‘s performances against Pakistan, whilst Murali returns to the side to worry New Zealand’s inexperienced batting line-up.

Anything other than a Sri Lankan series win would be a massive surprise.

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Much of the talk (in England at least) ahead of Bangalore Royal Challengers against Chennai Super Kings was of Pietersen vs Flintoff, but it was Muralitharan and Hayden who made the biggest contributions as Chennai rolled over Pietersen’s side, claiming victory by 92 runs.

To be fair to Flintoff, he did hit 22 from 13 balls and took 3-11 from 4 overs (including the wicket of Pietersen) to leave Bangalore reeling, finally slumping to 87 all out in pursuit of Chennai’s 179.

65 of those 179 runs were scored by Matthew Hayden off just 35 balls as the Super Kings ran riot.

The second season of the IPL is starting to heat up now, and if the marquee names like Hayden, Muralitharan and Flintoff continue to deliver, then the competition is sure to monopolise cricket coverage for the next few weeks.

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Muttiah Muralitharan has finally surpassed Wasim Akram as the top wicket-taker in ODI history. The record-breaking wicket is shown in the below video.

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The first time India faced the twin threat of Muralitharan and Mendis, in the Asia Cup final of July 2008, the Sri Lankans ripped through the Indian batting order. In the subsequent Test series, the ‘spin twins’ continued to cause all kinds of problems. By the time of August’s One Day series, however, there were signs that India’s batsmen were learning to cope.

There has been, as there tends to be, much talk of Mendis and Muralitharan in the build-up to the current series, but the message coming from India, regarding the youngster in particular, is that Mendis is not a threat, and that key batsmen will look to attack him. This is in marked contrast to Pakistan’s more wary approach, which included special training designed to prepare batsmen for the particular challenges that Sri Lanka’s twin spin attack poses.

In today’s First ODI, the two spinners’ combined figures were 20-0-99-1, which may suggest that India are starting to find a successful strategy. It remains to be seen if the next four ODIs produce any further evidence that bears out India’s confidence.

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India go into the ODI series against Sri Lanka riding a run of good form – the tourists beat their hosts 3-2 last year without Sehwag or Tendulkar, and have since pummelled England 5-0 at home. Aside from tournaments such as the Kitply Cup and Asia Cup, their last series defeat was way back in 2007, and their professed desire to be the best in the world is constantly gaining credibility, especially now that the pace attack is so strong.

That pace attack is likely to comprise Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and one other, given the fact that chief spinner Harbhajan is injured. The batting line-up looks as strong as ever, even if Tendulkar isn’t the archetypical modern ODI opener.

For Sri Lanka, much will depend on whether Muralitharan and Mendis can improve on the less-than-exemplary performances they put in the last time these two sides met in an ODI series (which of course followed a Test series where they had made mincemeat of India’s batsmen). The former is poised on the verge of a world record, which should be motivation enough. If those two take wickets and Nuwan Kulasekara continues his recent good form, India will have their work cut out for them.

Nevertheless, India will be favourites, given their form and the sheer quality of their side.

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