Pietersen wary of silent assassin Muralitharan
CRICKET: Kevin Pietersen may have once disdainfully
reverse-swept Muttiah Muralitharan for six but that hasn't lessened the
England batsman's respect for the Sri Lankan spin wizard.
The South Africa-born strokeplayer's extraordinary shot during the
course of a century in last year's Edgbaston Test will live long in the
memory of all who saw it.
Now England will hope for similar heroics when they face Sri Lanka in
a World Cup Super Eights match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here
"It's just a case of watching the ball, trying to pick him and trying
to hit your areas when you're facing Murali because he's a special
bowler," said Pietersen, now rated the world's leading one-day
"Murali doesn't say a lot, he just winds you up and winds you up
because he knows he's going to get you out. He just smiles and laughs.
"He's a really happy guy, a nice guy - I call him the silent assassin
- he has so much talk on the cricket ball he doesn't have to say much."
And Pietersen, 26, said the off-spinner, a key member of the Sri
Lanka side that won the World Cup in 1996, was even trickier to cope
with than his friend and Hampshire captain Shane Warne, the Australia
leg-spin great and Test cricket's leading wicket-taker. "He's a true
great of the game. Muralitharan is the hardest bowler in the world to
face, definitely - even more difficult than Warne."
England's bid for a World Cup semi-final spot is about to enter a
potentially decisive few days.
After the Sri Lanka match, they take on world champions Australia in
Antigua on Sunday.
Having failed to carry through any points after losing to Group C
winners New Zealand in the first round, England know that losing twice
this week will all but end their World Cup challenge.
"It's a massive week for us," said Pietersen of an England side that
have failed to impress during victories over non-Test nations Canada,
Kenya and Ireland.
"We cannot finish on Sunday with no points from these two games. "I
know there is a small mathematical chance of going through if we win the
last three games, but we've got to get at least another two points out
of this week and the guys are upbeat about it.
ST JOHN'S, Antigua, Monday AFP