M&M threat on English minds

M&M threat on English minds

 Eyes on the ball: England skipper Andrew Strauss bats during a training session at the R Premadasa stadium. APMuttiah Muralitharan might not be the force he once was, innumerable footages of Lasith Malinga might be available with the video analyist, but England are spending extra hours to negate the dual threat during their imminent quarterfinal match.

Muralitharan and Malinga have not precisely scorched this World Cup, but they have given us a few glimpses of their destructive powers while grabbing 11 and seven wickets respectively.

It was obvious that England have that ultra-flexible wrist of Muralitharan and the ankle-specific-trajectory of Malinga on their minds when they tried to simulate a match situation at nets on Wednesday at the R Premadasa stadium.

It’s quite tough to reproduce the impossible angles that the master off-spinner creates with his wrists and using the crease, but Paul Collingwood tried his best to emulate the owner of 1330 international wickets, twisting his right wrist this way and that against the England top order batsmen including skipper Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan.

That could also be a strong indication that Muralitharan, who is recuperating from a mild hamstring niggle, will play on Saturday. Sri Lankan coach Trevor Bayliss too sounded positive. “He didn't bowl against the batters in the nets, but he did bowl for some 20 minutes at the back and we are very confident that he will play and I think he's also pretty confident that he will play. He's a guy who’s played through few niggles in the past and I'm sure he'll be fine come game day. He's an important part of the team,” Bayliss said.

If Collingwood was entrusted with the task of copying Murali, England coach Andy Flower and fielding coach Richard Hustler took upon themselves the task of creating the Malinga effect at nets. Hustler indeed was quite impressive, troubling James Anderson, castling him a couple of times, and Morgan with fast yorker length deliveries.

However, simulating the situation at nets is a vastly different proportion as against facing these bowlers on the ground. But England wicketkeeper and opener Matt Prior stressed on the need to prepare mentally for the task ahead.

“We have been on tour for a long time. We have played a lot of cricket balls and bowled a lot of cricket balls over the last six months. It’s almost not the netting, but it’s more about the mental side of the game. Who are you going to be facing? Who are you going to come out against? The situation of the game you might confront. You want to find that as soon as possible. The more time you have for preparation the better it is. That’s a vital part of getting ready for the game, the mental side of it,” Prior said.

In preparing extensively to nullify the M&M threat, England have showed that they are well-prepared for another round of mud-wrestling, something they had to go through in all their matches in the league phase. Bayliss was wary of England’s fighting unyielding spirit.

“They have played some close games, that gives them an advantage from a point of view that they have had some close situations towards the end of the game. So, they will come out believing that somewhere along the line they will have a good game. Certainly, it gives you an advantage as in the more times you are in those close situations it’s easy the next time you find yourself in that situation. We are under no illusion about this English team,” Bayliss said.

So, England have taken that first step to grab the bull by its horns, and that elusive easy day on park might come on Saturday.