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Sri Lanka sweat on Murali fitness

Sri Lanka received a scare ahead of second Test against England when bowling spearhead Muttiah Muralitharan reported for match-eve nets with a sore shoulder.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2003 13:17 IST

Sri Lanka received a scare ahead of Wednesday's second Test against England when bowling spearhead Muttiah Muralitharan reported for match-eve nets with a sore shoulder.

The prolific off-spinner, who claimed 11 wickets in the drawn first Test at Galle last week, was unable to bowl at practice on Tuesday and moved around with an ice pack on his shoulder.

Sri Lankan coach John Dyson was, however, optimistic that Muralitharan will be able to take the field on Wednesday on his home turf at the Asgiriya stadium.

"It's basically a sore shoulder and we are confident he will play," said Dyson. "We did not want to take any chances and told him not to bowl at the nets today.

"Using an ice pack is not uncommon and we wanted to give him some rest after his hard work in the first Test."

Muralitharan tormented the England batsmen on a turning pitch in Galle, but did not get support from other bowlers as the tourists hung on for a draw.

Dyson knows Sri Lanka need Muralitharan at his best if England are to be beaten, but stressed the wickets in this hill resort will support the seamers as well.

"I think it will be a sporting pitch," he said. "There is going to be spin, there is going to be bounce and the ball may seam around too."

England captain Michael Vaughan, however, did not support Dyson's verdict on the pitch.

"The last time we played here two years ago, it was good for seamers to bowl on," Vaughan said. "But I don't think it will be the same this time. There will be a lot more in it for the spinners."

England had won at Kandy in 2001 to come back after losing the opening Test at Galle, before clinching the series with a victory in the final Test in Colombo.

Vaughan, hoping for a repeat, said England's bowling on that tour was stronger with the presence of seasoned seamers Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough.

But he was encouraged by the ease with which his batsmen played the Sri Lankan slow bowlers, especially Muralitharan, last week.

"I thought we played Murali better and better as the match progressed," he said. "The fact that we fended him off through the last day was no mean achievement."

Sri Lanka, needing just three wickets in the last session of play, were defied by the England lower-order.

"We've had our share of positives from that match," said Vaughan, who felt his team will be stronger by the return of former captain Nasser Hussain.

Hussain missed the first Test with a viral infection.

"Nasser will be back in the side for sure. We now have to work out our team for the Test since Nasser's replacement, Paul Collingwood, did very well with the bat."

Collingwood played an important role in salvaging a draw at Galle, holding his ground for three hours on the final day to score 36.

The third and final match of the series will be played at the Sinhalese sports club ground in Colombo from December 18-22.

Both teams will name their 11 before the toss on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka (from): Hashan Tillakaratne (capt), Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Michael Vandort, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Dinusha Fernando, Dilhara Fernando, Tillakaratne Dilshan.

England (from): Michael Vaughan (capt), Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Andrew Flintoff, Rikki Clarke, Gareth Batty, Paul Collingwood, Robert Croft, Ashley Giles, Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson, Richard Johnson, James Kirtley, Chris Read, Geraint Jones.

First Published: Dec 09, 2003 16:50 IST