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Sangakkara: Murali will do for England

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Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan nets today after a hamstring injury. “Murali is fine to play. He’s 100% okay, which is great news,” said Kumar Sangakkara

Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara rates tomorrow’s quarter-final opponents England one of the World Cup’s best teams - but still expects Muttiah Muralitharan to have a major say against them.

Muralitharan, 39 next month, who will call time on his record-breaking international career at the end of Sri Lanka’s campaign in this tournament.

That, of course, will be tomorrow if England upset the odds against the co-hosts at Colombo’s Premadasa Stadium.

Sangakkara acknowledges England’s capabilities, despite their rocky progression into the last eight, but believes master off-spinner Muralitharan - fit after a hamstring injury - will be up to the task too.

“Murali is fine to play. He’s 100% okay, which is great news,” said Sangakkara.

“He’s a guy who rises to the occasion and does really well in big games. The side is very confident about what he can produce for us in the important matches.”

Wicketkeeper-batsman Sangakkara is confident the potential watershed of the end of Muralitharan’s 19-year career will not throw Sri Lanka off their stride.

Asked whether Muralitharan’s impending retirement may provide an extra edge, he replied: “I think it will. But that kind of thinking goes out of the window when you cross the boundary rope.

“All the guys’ focus on is playing well in that moment and staying in the present. I’m sure they’ll feel the pressure, the crowd and lift themselves.

“It’s do-or-die for all the teams when you get to the quarter-finals. That incentive is going to be there, and both sides will feel that intensity and that pressure equally.”

Kumar Sangakkara

“I think England are one of the best sides in this tournament. They have proven that right throughout,” Sangakkara diplomatically added

Sangakkara is careful not to underestimate an England team who have scraped into the knockout stage after a succession of impossibly close finishes in Group B.

“I think England are one of the best sides in this tournament. They have proven that right throughout,” he added.

“They’ve won the close games they had to win, so we know how tough they can be. We’re expecting nothing less than their best tomorrow.”

Sangakkara also spoke today of his support for England’s Michael Yardy, who had to leave the tournament yesterday because of depression.

He stressed that the difficulties Yardy has encountered on tour - and which struck Marcus Trescothick down in India five years ago - must help to inform the future management of all international cricketers.

“I think it’s really tough, especially the older you get and the longer you play,” said Sangakkara.

“Your lifestyles are such that you always feel a bit under the gun, under the pump when you’re touring - and I think also sometimes the occasion can overwhelm you.

“Everyone feels for Michael Yardy. We’ve seen Marcus Trescothick battle his way through international cricket.

“I think every side, going forward, will pay more and more attention to the psychological aspect of players and how fit they are mentally to take up the challenges.

“Cricket is a great sport. But at the same time I think sides will have to start managing their senior players especially a lot better.”

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