By Omar Khalid, IANS,
Lahore : All eyes will be on Sri Lanka’s veteran spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who needs five more wickets to edge past Wasim Akram’s 502 haul to become the highest wicket-taker in one-day cricket history, when the visitors take on Pakistan in the series final at the Gaddafi Stadium here Saturday.
Muralitharan, who took three key wickets in the second one-dayer in Karachi Wednesday to help Sri Lanka level the three-match series 1-1, is just two wickets short of becoming only the second bowler in ODI history to reach the magical 500-wicket mark. And five wickets in Saturday’s game will take him past Pakistan pace legend Wasim Akram as the most successful bowler in ODI history.
Muralitharan, 36, is already world’s top wicket-taker in Test cricket with 769 scalps in 125 appearances.
However, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene made it clear Friday that his team’s focus will be on winning the series decider.
“Definitely it would be great to see Muralitharan achieve that record. But winning the match and the series would be the top priority, and on the way if Muralitharan achieves that record we would definitely celebrate,” he told reporters.
Jayawardene said that he was pleased to see his team bounce back after losing the series opener Tuesday by eight wickets.
“We didn’t repeat our mistakes of the first match and the guys showed a lot of character, so it’s necessary we continue that. Lahore will be a new ground and we will assess the situation and hope to execute our plans,” he said.
Sri Lanka will once again focus on its spin attack as mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis is also back in form after an ordinary outing in the first ODI. Mendis took three wickets in Sri Lanka’s 129-run triumph in the previous game.
Pakistan is likely to field a specialist spinner in the series for the first time.
After experimenting with a four-man pace attack in the previous two games, skipper Shoaib Malik is expected to bring in off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in the playing eleven in place of under-performing fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar. Also expected to go out is left-armed pacer Sohail Tanvir, who failed to impress much in the first two games.
He is likely to be replaced by young fast bowler Sohail Khan. Malik said that his team will have to give its best to win the series.
“We let the lead slip in the second match, so it’s now a must-win situation in the final game. I hope the players realise that and do not repeat the mistakes of the second match,” he said.
“The second match should be behind us and we must move on and win the last match,” stressed Malik.
The Gaddafi Stadium wicket had some grass Friday but it is likely to be shaved off ahead of the day-night game.