Murali, Vaas feats no distraction: Jayawardene

Published: Friday, November 30, 2007, 14:32 [IST]
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Kandy: Sri Lanka will not be sidetracked by the record feats of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan when the first Test against England starts on Saturday, captain Mahela Jayawardene said.

While off-spinner Muralitharan needs five wickets to become Test cricket's most successful bowler, seamer Vaas will become only the third Sri Lankan to play 100 Test matches.

The two impending feats have excited local fans, but Jayawardene was confident his team will not be distracted by what he says are "magnificent achievements that cricketers only dream of."

"All of us are experienced enough to realise it is a Test series and we really need to play some very good cricket," Jayawardene told reporters after his team's practice session on Friday.

"The records will come but we will also be concerned with what the result will be after three Test matches. The focus will be to start very well, get at it from the beginning itself and play really positive cricket."

Muralitharan, 35, with 704 wickets in the bag, returns to his home town to cross retired Australian Shane Warne's world mark of 708, a feat Jayawardene said he and the entire team were looking forward to.

"I know he needs only five wickets but as a captain I hope he gets more than five wickets in this match," the skipper said.

"It's his home town and a lot of people will be here cheering him. It will be a great moment for us as well."

Muralitharan has proved almost unplayable in his own country where his last 25 Tests have fetched an incredible 205 wickets - more than eight a match - at an average of 16.03.

In those 25 Tests, he has taken five wickets in an innings 20 times and 10 wickets in a match on eight occasions.

Jayawardene warned England's batsmen to beware of Muralitharan's guiles because the off-spinner loved bowling to them.

"By playing county cricket (for Lancashire), I think Murali is getting better and better against English batsmen.

"It should be the other way round. But he understands how he needs to go about the England batsmen. The Australians have played him well, other than that he has been on top of most teams."

Jayawardene also paid rich tributes to his veteran left-arm seamer Vaas, 35, who will join Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya as the only Sri Lankans to appear in 100 Tests.

"It is a great achievement," he said. "Being a fast bowler on the sub-continent it is not easy to play 100 Test matches because of the conditions and slow wickets.

"Vaasy has been a great ambassador for us and a great fighter".

Jayawardene said he was not aware of media speculation that left-hander Jayasuriya will announce his retirement during the series, possibly after the first Test itself.

"I have not heard anything about it," the captain said. "The selectors have given me a squad for the first Test. I am sure he would have had a chat with the selectors if there was anything in the air."

Sri Lanka short-listed their 12 for the Test, preferring to wait till Saturday morning to choose between fast bowler Dilhara Fernando and leg-spinner Malinga Bandara for the final spot.

"The wicket looks dry and there is a lot of sun about," said Jayawardene. "If the conditions stay like this, the wicket will get slower, so I want to wait before picking a seamer or spinner."

There was no place in the 12 for left-hand batsman Upul Tharanga, who made 112 and 86 in the two practice matches against the tourists in Colombo.


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