February 21, 2011 / 9:33 AM / in 7 years

Muralitharan form the only cloud for pumped-up Sri Lanka

HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lanka will be little the wiser on Monday over their long-range World Cup prospects after a 210-run demolition of Canada.

<p>Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan bowls during a practice session in Suriyawewa town in Hambantota district, about 240km (149 miles) south of Colombo, February 18 , 2011. The first match in Sri Lanka for the Cricket World Cup will be in Suriyawewa between Sri Lanka and Canada February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds</p>

At least, the co-hosts will have put some of their early tournament nerves behind them but there was little gained from Sunday’s one-sided match other than the garnering of a win and the chance for their players to enjoy a handy tune-up.

One small cause for concern could be the relative ineffectiveness against a non-test playing nation of master spinner Muttiah Muralitharan upon whom much of their hopes will rest in his final World Cup.

The aggressive but inexperienced Canadian Rizwan Cheema managed to hoist him for sixes in successive overs although Murali exacted revenge by having him caught at short third man off a mis-timed attempt to add a third.

Nevertheless, with Pakistan’s big-hitting Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq waiting in the wings for their next match on Saturday, Muralitharan’s return of 2-38 from nine overs at a cost of 4.22 -- the most expensive of the Sri Lankan attack -- was not the perfect preparation.

Otherwise there was little to criticise in the 2007 runners-up’s performance and Mahela Jayawardene’s match-winning 80-ball century underlined what a danger he is to Sri Lanka’s Group A opponents.

‘FEW NERVES’

The vice-skipper was all too aware that there will be much, much tougher attacks to negotiate going forward in a group which also includes world champions Australia and New Zealand.

“We had a few nerves before the game started, just to get on with the World Cup in front of our own crowd,” said Jayawardene after completing the fastest World Cup ton by a Sri Lankan.

”It’s not easy to play a team like Canada. You’ve got to make sure that you come in prepared. It’s a good start but we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us with other teams.

“Pakistan are a very good side and they’ve got really good individual players,” said Jayawardene.

“We played them quite often and we know how dangerous they can be. So we have to do our homework right and prepare ourselves with a very positive mind set,” he said.

They will benefit by the probable introduction of strike bowler Lasith Malinga after he missed the Canada opener because of a sore back.

“Leaving Lasith out was just a precautionary measure but he will play in our next game,” said Jayawardene.

“Lasith played in the West Indies game as well so we didn’t want to risk him. He bowled yesterday (Saturday) and he was okay but given the fact that we have got a couple of crucial games coming up we thought that he should get a break,” he said.

“He’ll get into his stride in the next few days and should be okay for the Pakistan game.”

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