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September 27, 2007
Muttiah Muralitharan has been ruled out of the first three one-day internationals against England. Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's captain, confirmed that Muralitharan's bicep injury had not healed.
"We don't want to rush him," Jayawardene said. "He's almost there, but we just have to make a decision whether we would like to risk him like this soon after injury. We will make sure that we will make a sensible decision." Sri Lanka's priority is to get him fit for their trip to Australia which follows almost immediately after the five-match series against England.
Such is the shadow that Muralitharan casts over matches that at the press conference today Paul Collingwood, England's captain, seemed reluctant to believe that he would not be playing. "We're preparing as if Murali is playing and we will still prepare in this way," he said.
Sri Lanka called Kaushal Lokuarachchi into the squad as a replacement. A legspinner, he has 19 ODIs to his name and can more than hold his own with the bat. The Guardian reported that his inclusion was too much for Trevor Bayliss, Sri Lanka's new Australian coach, who told the media, with some uncertainty, that Muralitharan's stand-in was someone called Wakaroochi.
Before the first game England take on a Sri Lanka Cricket XI, captained by Avishka Gunawardene, in a one-day warm-up match at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo on Friday. Besides Gunawardene, England's opponents include seven players with international limited-overs experience, the most prominent among them being Malinga Bandara, the legspinner, who lost his spot in the national squad to Lokuarachchi.
Gihan de Silva and Indika de Saram will vie for the wicketkeepers slot. The selection of de Saram, 34, comes as a surprise, considering that he played his last ODI in 2001.
Kevin Pietersen is likely to captain England for the first time after Collingwood was hit by a stomach bug. Collingwood, Stuart Broad, Luke Wright and Alastair Cook are all struggling with what their coach, Peter Moores, described as a "stomach illness". The match will also be a significant moment for Dimitri Mascarenhas, who will play for the first time in his country of origin.
Sri Lanka Cricket XI Avishka Gunawardene, Viraj Perera, Chamara Kapugedera, Thilina Kadamby, Gihan de Silva, Gihan Rupasinghe, Malinga Bandara, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ranga Dias, Akalanka Ganegama, Sujeewa de Silva, Ashan Priyaranjan, Indika de Saram (wk), Lasith Fernando.
England XI (probable) Kevin Pietersen (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Phil Mustard (wk), Monty Panesar, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett.
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