Colombo, Nov 30 (mb): Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is poised to recapture the world Test wickets record during the first Test against England starting on Saturday.
Muralitharan needs five victims in his home town of Kandy to overhaul Shane Warne's mark of 708. The Australian leg-spinner retired this year. "It will be a great moment for him to do it in Kandy, his hometown, and as captain I'm certainly hoping for the five wickets," captain Mahela Jayawardene told Reuters on Thursday.
Jayawardene said his team had learned a lot during the 2-0 thrashing in Australia this month. "The guys want to make sure things go right for us in this series with England and make sure we play to our potential as individuals and as a team," he said.
"We know where we have to improve and it's up to us to put all the words into action now."
Jayawardene refused to confirm rumours that 38-year-old opening batsman Sanath Jayasuriya would retire from Test cricket after the first Test. "If there is anything I am sure he will tell you before the Test match," he said.
Sri Lanka have confirmed that Jayasuriya will open the innings with either Upul Tharanga or Michael Vandort. Left-hander Jehan Mubarak will be recalled to bat in the middle order.
With seamer Farveez Maharoof out of the three-match series with an ankle injury, left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas looks set to play his 100th Test. "Vaasy is an experienced player and without Maharoof he will come back into the forum," Jayawardene said.
England's main selection dilemma will be a choice between in-form all rounder Ravi Bopara or Owais Shah at number six. The visitors must also decide on their third seamer with Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom scheduled to take the new ball.
James Anderson looks the likeliest pick after Steve Harmison pulled up with back spasms during the final warm-up match this week.
England wicket-keeper Matthew Prior believes England are ready for the fight after two weeks adjusting to Sri Lanka's heat and humidity. "It's a challenge but we are strong as a unit and know exactly what we have to do," Prior told reporters.
"Whoever has got the biggest heart and whoever fights the hardest and longest will come out on top. The past two weeks have been exactly what we needed and I believe we are in really good shape."
Teams (to be picked from):
England - Michael Vaughan (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Matthew Hoggard, Phil Mustard, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison.
Sri Lanka - Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Michael Vandort, Upul Tharanga, Chamara Silva, Jehan Mubarak, Prasanna Jayawardene, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Malinga Bandara, Sujeewa de Silva, Muttiah Muralitharan.