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Sanath backs natural game

Sydney: Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya believes his decision to play his natural game has helped the side regain winning form in the triangular one-day series against England and Australia.

Sri Lanka lost their first three matches in the series and are trying to become the first team in the history of the annual tournament, which started in 1979-80, to qualify for the finals after such a poor start.

Sri Lanka thrashed Australia by 79 runs in Sydney Thursday, scoring 343 for five, the highest tally ever recorded against the world champions.

The massive total against Australia came just two days after the tourists were bowled out for 65 in a one-day game against Australia A in Adelaide.

“What we discussed was that we need to play our natural game, especially myself,” said Jayasuriya Sunday, who made 122 from 105 balls and shared an opening stand of 237 with Maravan Atapattu (101).

“I need to go and play my shots. You can’t hang around. What we needed was one win to change the whole thing and we did that the other night.

It gives you a lot of confidence (to beat Australia) because that’s the best team.”

Sri Lanka need to beat England Monday to strengthen their hopes of reaching the finals.

Australia have won four of their five matches and lead the series with 22 points with England on 13 and Sri Lanka on seven.

Jayasuriya said defending champions Australia and hosts South Africa were worthy World Cup favourites for the tournament starting next month.

“But anything can happen,” he added.

Meanwhile, Australian umpire Darrell Hair, who no-balled Sri Lanka’s leading bowler Muttiah Muralidharan for throwing in the 1995-96 Melbourne Test, will officiate in Monday’s match.

It will be the pair’s first on-field meeting on this tour.

Muralidharan — the fourth-highest wicket-taker in ODI history — has not toured Australia since 1998-99, when he was also no-balled again by local umpires for throwing.

Jayasuriya said Muralidharan, who has taken 299 wickets in ODIs, was more concerned about returning to form and fitness after a hernia operation with the World Cup around the corner.

Muralidharan missed the first three matches of the series, all losses, and returned in Thursday’s match against Australia.

“No problem, it (umpire Hair’s appointment) is no problem,” Jayasuriya said. “He’s just started and needs time bowling in the nets and in matches.”

“He bowled pretty well the other night (2/44) and he will get more and more useful in time. When he comes in it gives a lot of confidence to the boys, he means as much to us as Shane Warne does to Australia.

“We don’t bother about what the crowd says because we know he has proved himself as the No. 1 bowler in the world,” Jayasuriya said.

Muralidharan is rated by Wisden as the best bowler in Test history. The 30-year-old has taken 437 wickets in 78 Tests, the third-highest all-time tally, but his bent-arm action has provoked strong reactions.

Called for throwing by umpire Ross Emerson in a one-day match in Adelaide against England in 1998-99 and by Hair earlier, Muralidharan has been labelled a ‘javelin thrower’ by former India left-arm spinner Bishan Bedi.

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