Jayawardene ready for battle against Englishmen

Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene insisted that his batsmen would have no trouble picking themselves up for the first Test against England here at Lord's.

In their final warm-up match before the three-Test series starts on Thursday, Sri Lanka went down to a 10-wicket defeat against England 'A' at Worcester last week.

No batsman managed a fifty while inexperienced openers Michael Vandort and Upul Tharanga recorded three noughts between them, with Vandort bagging a pair.

That led to renewed talk in Sri Lanka that veteran left-handed batsman Sanath Jayasuriya might be persuaded to end his Test retirement in time for the second Test at Edgbaston starting on May 25.

But Jayawardene insisted conditions at Worcester would not be replicated at Lord's, where he himself scored a century in the first Test of Sri Lanka's previous tour of England in 2002, which ended in a high-scoring draw.

"The way the (Worcester) wicket behaved was a great challenge for us. I'm sure the Test wicket we are going to play on won't be that dangerous.

"Obviously you have to give them (the younger players) a bit of time. They are not going to turn into senior pros overnight," Jayawardene also told reporters.

"The last three times we've come here, it has been early summer and we are quite capable of getting adjusted," he added.

Despite the openers' struggles, Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody stressed he wasn't planning to promote wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara up to open from number three.

"The role Sanga plays with the gloves, it's not ideal that he's batting up front. He's batted at three as long as I've been involved with the team and performed there very consistently, so there's no move to make any changes.

"It looks like it's going to be a very good cricket wicket and it's time we played our 'A' game."

Moody said the Jayasuriya speculation was not a major issue.

"I haven't spoken to anyone from Sri Lanka Cricket with regards to that so I can't really comment.

"I suppose it's something that is sitting in the back of their (the younger players) heads: 'is he (Jayasuriya) coming, isn't he coming?'

"But Mahela and myself and the senior group are encouraging the younger players just to focus on the opportunity they've got," the former Australian international maintained.

"There's no point looking over your shoulder and to be honest, whether you're a senior player coming back into the side or a younger player knocking on the door, it makes no difference, it's the same pressure," Moody, previously coach of English county Worcestershire, added.

Jayawardene, whose 107 four years ago earnt him a place on the dressing room honours board which records all Test centuries Lord's, said he hoped the younger batsmen could be inspired by the way Sri Lanka had played in their four previous Tests 'at the home of cricket'.

"Four times Sri Lanka have played at Lord's and there are five hundreds all by different individuals. It's a brilliant thing for them to look up to and say 'I want my named on that board as well'," said Jayawardene.

Thursday's match will be the first time Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan has played Test cricket at Lord's after a shoulder injury sidelined the now 34-year-old off-spinner four years ago.

"He's always a great competitor, you never know what he's going to take out of his bag," said Jayawardene. "It will be great for him to play at Lord's. I'm sure he will come up with something special."

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