Colombo: Australian skipper Ricky Ponting said on Thursday his team had the batsmen to counter Sri Lankan spin wizard Muthiah Muralitharan in the Champions Trophy cricket semi-final here.
"Muralitharan is a world-class bowler and will be the hardest to face, but we have planned against him," Ponting said ahead of Friday's day-night clash. "How to play Muralitharan will vary from batsman to batsman," said Ponting. "It's up to each individual to have a game-plan against him. We've watched how England batsmen handled him in a Test series (in England) recently." Off spinner Muralitharan, 30, has always been a major force on home pitches with his prodigious turn, unsettling bounce and subtle variations. The ace spinner, who has so far grabbed 294 wickets in 197 One-dayers, is likely to play a key role against Australia who have sometimes been vulnerable to off spin in recent years. Indian Harbhajan Singh made life miserable for Steve Waugh's Australians with his off spin last year at home as he finished with 32 wickets in three Tests to lead his team to a stunning 2-1 series victory. Ponting said his team would play aggressive cricket against the hosts to enhance the chances of qualifying for the first big final under his captaincy. "This is my biggest match as captain and we'll continue to play aggressive cricket," said Ponting, who took over from Waugh as one-day captain earlier this year. "This is how we play the game. We've been noticed as number one team in the world for the last few years and we've got to try not to become number two. "It's going to be a tough game. It's the semi-final of the second-biggest One-day competition. It's going to be a fiery contest." Australia has often seized the initiative in the opening 15 overs through its hard- hitting openers Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden and a fearsome pace trio of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee. "Our fast bowlers have been doing a fantastic job. They've been taking early wickets regularly. They'll try to do the same tomorrow," Ponting said. "Sri Lanka play well in these conditions. They also enjoy crowd support, but that doesn't bother us. We're a fairly experienced side and getting used to these conditions (hot and humid)." Teams (from): Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Shane Watson, Brett Lee, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath, Jimmy Maher, Nathan Hauritz and Andrew Bichel. Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Chaminda Vaas, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Dilhara Fernando, Kumar Dharmasena, Upul Chandana, Hasantha Fernando and Dilshan Tillakaratne. Umpires: Steve Bucknor (West Indies) and Dave Orchard (South Africa). TV umpire: Rudi Koertzen (South Africa). Match referee: Wasim Raja (Pakistan).
It'll be fiery semi-final against Lanka, says Ponting