Durban: Australian captain Ricky Ponting does not fear the prospect of facing champion Sri Lankan off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final despite the way Kenya's Asif Karim embarrassed his middle order.Karim, a 39-year-old left-arm spinner, had figures of three wickets for two runs in his first eight overs during Australia's five-wicket win in the 'dead' day-night Super Six match at Kingsmead on Saturday.
Karim's success on a pitch offering less turn than what is expected in Port Elizabeth in the semi-final prompted speculation that Muralitharan could do even greater damage to the reigning champions on Tuesday.But Ponting said, "Did you see the game last week (Australia beat Sri Lanka by 96 runs at Centurion with Muralitharan taking one for 47). I thought we played very well against Muralitharan and hopefully we'll do the same again."Ponting, whose team is still unbeaten in the tournament, however conceded the slower pitch expected at St George's Park could favour Sri Lanka.
"It's pretty well known they don't like the faster type of wickets but we've played there twice so we'll know the conditions better than they do."Michael Bevan missed the Durban encounter with a lower back strain but is expected to be fit for the crunch game in Port Elizabeth where he has twice rescued Australia with gritty innings in its previous two World Cup matches there against England and New Zealand.Andrew Symonds came in on Saturday and Ponting admitted it would be tough deciding between him and Ian Harvey, who also faced Kenya, for the one remaining place in the side."I'm not sure, we'll have to speak about that and look at the conditions.
Ian Harvey has done nothing wrong with the ball and Andrew Symonds has done nothing wrong with the bat."Brett Lee, who took a hat-trick against Kenya, gave Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya thumb and arm injuries when the teams last met. Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak, meanwhile, said Sri Lanka can defeat Australia after his own side crumbled by 74 runs against Jayasuriya's men at East London on Saturday."They must stand a chance against Australia next week," Streak said. "They're flamboyant, unpredictable and it'll be a tough match. But obviously Australia must still be the favourite to win."
Streak said that if Marvan Atapattu and Jayasuriya got Sri Lanka off to a good start and seamer Chaminda Vaas made early breakthroughs, the Australians could be under pressure.The key lay in Muralitharan coming on to bowl with Australia three or four wickets down. "They've got lots of potential," he said. "Sri Lanka can do it."Copyright AFP 2001