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Muttiah the world's best: Ponting

By Brent Read 08/01/2003 07:55:14 PM Comments (0)

Muttiah Muralitharan's impending comeback spells danger for the rest of the Sri Lankan bowling attack, with Australia set to target his teammates at the SCG on Thursday night.

Australian limited overs captain Ricky Ponting admitted he didn't know how to play the man he rates the world's best bowler.

And he conceded his team-mates were likely to take a softly, softly approach with the Sri Lankan talisman and wield the big stick on the rest of the tourists' bowling attack.

When asked how Australia would play Muralitharan, Ponting replied: "Who knows?

"I think just knowing how important a player he is for their side, you negate him as much as you can and try to score off the other bowlers.

"He might be bowling very well and back into his stride (on Thursday). If he is it's going to be very hard for any of our batsmen to get on top of him."

Muralitharan has been a high profile spectator on Sri Lanka's tour thus far after undergoing a hernia operation - and he's been sorely missed.

The Sri Lankans have lurched from one disaster to another in his absence, culminating in Tuesday's embarrassing capitulation against Australia A.

But his return will give the struggling tourists an instant shot in the arm, a fact not lost on Ponting.

"The world's best bowler coming back into any side is going to help them, probably more so for Sri Lanka," Ponting said.

"They really feed off him and run off him."

His return also ensures Ponting will take few risks with his batting line-up despite the need for Michael Bevan and Damien Martyn to spend some time at the crease.

"Bevo and probably Marto haven't had much of a hit in the first few games, that probably won't happen (Thursday)either," Ponting said.

"We have to look to the World Cup as well. Shuffling the batting order around now is probably not going to do much for the guys when the World Cup comes around because it's going to be settled and balanced line-up in the World Cup team."

The Sri Lankans, on the other hand, have been blighted by batting collapses this summer.

Their tour reached its lowest ebb as they were bundled out for 65 by Australia A at Adelaide Oval.

"You can't say it was one of those days because the batting has been the problem since we came here," captain Sanath Jayasuriya said.

"The batting is not consistent enough. All the batsmen are going through a bit of a patch at the moment."

Their dismal form has left them needing to make history to qualify for the tri-series finals.

No team has ever lost its opening three games and qualified for the finals, but Muralitharan's return is a good start.

"The last few days he's been bowling a lot," Jayasuriya said.

"He has the match-winning bowler for Sri Lankan cricket and he can do lots of things to change a match.

"When he comes to the team it's a big difference."

Whether it's big enough to overcome the in-form Australians is another question.

At least the Sri Lankans confront an Australia side missing strike bowlers Glenn McGrath (side strain), Shane Warne (shoulder) and Jason Gillespie (elbow).

Their absence has thrown pressure on the shoulders of Brett Lee and Andy Bichel, who will lead an understrength attack.

AUSTRALIA: Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Bevan, Andrew Bichel, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Darren Lehmann, Jimmy Maher, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson.

SRI LANKA: to be named.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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