WC 2003 - Lankans to rely on spinners to outwit mighty Aussies
Published: Sunday, February 16, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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Johannesburg: Sri Lanka will rely on its spinners led by Muttiah Muralitharan to defeat reigning champions Australia in the World Cup Super Sixes opener at Centurion on Friday.The last time the two sides met, in Sydney in January, the Sri Lankans won and also beat Ricky Ponting's men in the Champions Trophy semi-final in Colombo in September."Despite the outstanding success of left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas, the slow bowlers have proved to be our strength and it is they we are banking on," captain Sanath Jayasuriya said ahead of the clash at the SuperSport Park.While the spinners took six wickets in Sydney, they claimed seven in Colombo to plot Australia's downfall. Sri Lanka was the last team to defeat Australia before Ponting's men began a world record run of 12 successive victories leading up to the Super Sixes."Vaas has been in very good form, but seamers Dilhara Fernando and Pulasthi Gunaratne have not bowled in the right places and we need more from them," said Jayasuriya.Vaas is the leading wicket taker in this World Cup along with West Indian Vasbert Drakes with a tally of 16 while off spinner Muralitharan has taken 12.Jayasuriya said the win in Sydney helped his team turn the corner after losing a One-day series in South Africa 4-1 and being beaten in all but three of their eight matches in the tri-series against Australia and England down under."I think we were woken up when Australia 'A' bowled us out for 65 in a practice match and here we are in the Super Sixes," said Jayasuriya.Sri Lanka topped Group B with four wins, a tie and a shock defeat to Kenya. Its Australian coach Dav Whatmore said he was happy the team had passed a test of character after losing to Kenya."They lifted their morale by playing well in the subsequent games and this has given me added confidence," said Whatmore, who coached Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996.His only worry was the poor form of middle-order batsman Mahela Jayawardena, who has scored just 16 runs in six innings.