Boycott fears Poms will dance to Murali~~s tune

Published: Thursday, May 11, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:The hosts' chances against an underrated Sri Lanka will depend on how they tackle the wiles and guiles of Muttiah Muralitharan because the islanders rely solely on the offie to win matches, said former England captain Geoffrey Boycott.

According to the legendary opener, Murali is hard to read and the English batsmen have their job cut out for them -- deny the offie any wicket.

''If our batsmen can play Murali, that's half the battle. It's no secret that when he is fit, he bowls around 40 per cent of the overs,'' Boycott wrote in his column for Daily Telegraph.

''To score off him, you need to be able to read him, but it doesn't matter too much if you can't; the important thing is that he shouldn't take too many wickets, because Sri Lanka don't win matches if he doesn't fire,'' he explained.

''Most English fans expect this series to be a pushover, but I'm not so sure. To my mind, Sri Lanka are an underrated side, and England are still living on Ashes glory. If our batsmen don't stop daydreaming about last summer, Muttiah Muralitharan will wake 'em up soon enough,'' he added.

Sri Lanka's pace spearhead Chaminda Vaas can also pose problems for the hosts but Murali is the main threat, he argued.

''They have one other good bowler in Chaminda Vaas, a left-armer who is expert at swinging the ball. Most of the time, though, it's Murali who does the damage.'' ''If the batters don't concentrate in this game, he will bowl them out again, just like he did at the Oval in 1998,'' he warned.

Never shy of speaking his mind out, Boycott said, ''Well, I use the word ''bowl'', but some people might argue with that.

Personally, I don't like the new rules allowing bowlers to bend their arms up to 15 degrees. But until the International Cricket Council have a rethink, this is what we are stuck with.'' ''The bottom line is that we must treat Murali with respect, both on and off the field,'' he added.

Boycott was also apprehensive about England's obsession with the Ashes.

''I'm worried that this obsession is affecting England's cricket.

It certainly did last winter. Yes, I know we were affected by injury and illness, and that India and Pakistan are never easy places to play. But I still feel that England were poor - with the sole exception of their win at Bombay. The fact that they never adapted to local conditions has been glossed over because everyone is concentrating on bigger fish.''

''This summer, people will find that Murali and his team-mates are charming people and very good cricketers. What they are not is a bunch of mugs. England will need to pay attention to Sri Lanka rather than Australia or they will come a cropper,'' he said.

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