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September 26, 2002
1540 IST

Pool A:
Aus | Ban | NZ

Pool B:
Ind | Eng | Zim

Pool C:
Ken | SA | WI

Pool D:
Ned | Pak | SL

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Aussies have no special plans for Murali

Australia have no special plans to deal with Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in their Champions Trophy semi-final, Australian captain Ricky Ponting said on Thursday.

Ponting told reporters it was down to each individual batsman to decide how to combat Sri Lanka's leading Test and one-day wicket-taker on Friday on a pitch expected to help the spinners.

"Murali's a world-class bowler and he's probably not only the hardest to score runs off but also their wicket-taker through the middle period of an innings," Ponting said.

"But it will be down to individuals to work out a game-plan to play him and that will vary from player to player.

"We've not made too much fuss and we'll prepare as we always prepare with a meeting today and I'm sure some stuff will come up then."

Ponting had some success against Muralitharan on Australia's tour of Sri Lanka in 1999, scoring 253 Test runs at 84.33 including 105 not out at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

But he said he was not the only player in the world champions' team to have seen a fair amount of the off-spinner.

"A lot of the guys in the squad now were on that tour and we've spoken a lot about how to play Murali in the past," he said.

"We've all watched a lot on TV and how England have handled him in Tests and one-dayers but everyone will have their individual plans.

"Some guys will have differing plans and styles of play and I'm sure you'll see those different styles tomorrow," he added.

Ponting admitted the battle between Australia's batsmen and the Sri Lankan spinners could be crucial.

"How we play their slower bowlers will probably determine the outcome of the game," he said.


But despite the key role spin is likely to play, Ponting said Australia would be unlikely to pick off-spinner Nathan Hauritz as a third slow bowler alongside leg-spinner Shane Warne and slow left-armer Darren Lehmann.

"The idea of three spinners has been thrown up but it's probably unlikely," he conceded. "It will be hard to change the side as it's performed so well over the past few weeks.

"We've got the part-time spinners like Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan if required and I'd think Sri Lanka would rather play spin that the quicks anyway."

Those quicker bowlers - Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee - have been highly effective in the early stages of the tournament, as well as in the recent triangular series against Pakistan and Kenya.

With that form behind them Ponting said it was unlikely the make-up of the attack would change.

"Our fast bowlers have done a great job opening the innings and taking early wickets and, hopefully, they'll do that again tomorrow," he said.

Ponting confirmed that batsman Damien Martyn would be fit for selection after missing the nine-wicket win over Bangladesh with a hip injury. He is likely to return in place of Jimmy Maher.

Australia were scheduled to hold an optional practice session on Thursday afternoon after lengthy work-outs on the preceding two days. Sri Lanka, with no reported injury concerns, practised on Thursday morning.

The winners of Friday's match will play India in the final on Sunday after Saurav Ganguly's men beat South Africa by 10 runs in the first semi-final.

Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Bevan, Andrew Bichel, Jason Gillespie, Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Hauritz, Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Darren Lehmann, Jimmy Maher, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Shane Watson.

Sri Lanka (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Russel Arnold, Marvan Atapattu, Upul Chandana, Aravinda de Silva, Kumar Dharmasena, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Hasantha Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Chaminda Vaas.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor and David Orchard. Third umpire Rudi Koertzen, fourth umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan. Match referee: Wasim Raja.

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