PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka March 9
by Shahid Hashmi
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura has pinpointed Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga as a double danger when they meet Sri Lanka in the World Cup on Wednesday.
The African nation, who have never beaten Sri Lanka in four previous World Cup matches, need a win to stay in hunt for a quarter-final place from Group A which is topped by New Zealand ahead of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia.
Zimbabwe have two points from their win over Canada while they lost to New Zeaaland and Australia.
"It's a very important game as we only have two points. We’ll be looking to play our best cricket against Sri Lanka and to do that we need to make a competitive score against their quality bowlers," said Chigumbura.
Chigumbura said Zimbabwe have a plan to tackle off-spinner Muralitharan, who has taken the most one-day wickets, and slinger Malinga who took a career-best 6-38, including a hat-trick, against Kenya.
"Sri Lanka’s whole attack has match-winners with Murali and Malinga obviously the big names, they are experienced and they know their conditions well and will use them to the best of their abilities.
"We have just got to make sure we play them properly and stop them getting wickets, especially in their first spells," said Chigumbura.
Sri Lanka know any upset would leave them in danger of missing out on the knockout phase.
The 1996 winners and 2007 runners-up have five points from four games and need a win to ensure they reach the quarter-finals. They face extra pressure because their last match is away against New Zealand in Mumbai.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara realises the importance of victory over Zimbabwe.
"Our focus is on the immediate game so it doesn't really matter where you finish up. You need to beat every single team to get into the final, and to win the World Cup," said Sangakkara, whose team lost to Pakistan and saw their match against Australia abandoned due to rain.
Sangakkara defended his batsmen, especially opener Tillakaratne Dilshan who was involved in a verbal stand-off with Australian pace bowler Shaun Tait where he lost his composure and his wicket.
"In cricket you have instances where not everyone shines every day. You always get matches where certain people shine and some don't," said Sangakkara, who was 73 not out when the rain washed out the Australia match.
"I think batsmen go through certain phases. The most important thing at all times in high-performance situations is to maintain equilibrium, make sure that your emotions remain the same at all times.
"Dilshan has been our best performer over the last few years. He has won us so many games so we just want him to go out and we want him to be focused and keep his aggression," he said.
Sri Lanka are likely to bring in paceman Dilhara Fernando for his first match in the World Cup.