Pak brace for record-breaking Murali, Mendis
Sri Lankan spin magicians Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis loom as major threats for Pakistan in their three-match one-day series which opens in Karachi on Tuesday.cricket Updated: Jan 19, 2009 02:32 IST
Sri Lankan spin magicians Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis loom as major threats for Pakistan in their three-match one-day series which opens in Karachi on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Muralitharan, already the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 769, will have the extra motivation of overhauling the tally of one-day wickets, currently held by Pakistan's Wasim Akram with 502.
The wily off-spinner needs just nine wickets to become the highest wicket-taker in both forms of the game.
But the unorthodox Mendis holds more challenges for the home team.
The 23-year-old army officer is not a big turner of the ball like his more illustrious partner Muralitharan, but the key to his success is the way he grips the ball with his fingers and flicks it to bowl a variety of deliveries.
Last week he became the quickest bowler to get 50 wickets in one-day cricket, having made his debut only last year.
In his only match against Pakistan, Mendis took four wickets. He then took six wickets in the very next match against India to help Sri Lanka win the Asia Cup in Karachi in July last year.
But Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said his team were geared up to counter the twin-spin threat.
"We have devised our plans how to tackle Mendis. I can't tell you the details as it's not for public consumption," said Intikhab, himself a former leg-spinner of repute.
"He is not conventional at all. He has the offie, a leggie, a flipper. Some say play him from the hand, some say off the pitch. But the thing is he's quick, so whatever we do, we have to decide properly," he said.
"We will definitely be positive and attack him."
Pakistan's first plan is to outwit Sri Lanka with pace as they named six fast bowlers in their squad of 15 with fit-again Shoaib Akhtar leading the pack.
Akhtar, 33, missed all matches in Pakistan's 3-0 win against the West Indies at Abu Dhabi in November last year.
The home team can also take heart from Sri Lanka's unimpressive batting despite winning the tri-series in Bangladesh last week.
Pakistan hastily arranged the one-day series with Sri Lanka after India pulled out of a planned tour amid hightened political tension in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
The second match will be played in Karachi on Wednesday, while the final match is in Lahore on Saturday.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (capt), Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Younus Khan, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar, Saeed Ajmal, Khurram Manzoor, Sohail Khan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Amin
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Jehan Mubarak, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilina Kandamby, Muthiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Farveez Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Angelo Mathews
Umpires: Nigel Llong (ENG), Nadeem Ghouri (PAK)
TV umpire: Ahsan Raza (PAK)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)