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Homeboy Muralitharan hoping to give Sri Lanka happy 50th

KANDY, Sri Lanka, March 6 (AFP) - Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan will be hoping to pile on the misery for England in front of his home fans in the second cricket Test which begins here on Wednesday.

Muralitharan helped bowl Sri Lanka, who will be hosting their 50th home test match, to an innings victory over the tourists at Galle in the first Test last month, even though he was not fully fit.

While Sri Lanka will be looking to extend their success from Galle to Kandy, historically the venue is not their favourite hunting ground.

They have won only twice in 10 Tests played at the Asgiriya Stadium, near the town of Kandy, since 1983, lost five and drawn three.

The wins have been against Zimbabwe in 1998 (by eight wickets) and against Australia in 1999 (by six wickets).

Both victories were fashioned out by Kandy's famous cricketing son.

Muralitharan snatched 12 wickets against Zimbabwe and eight against Australia.

Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya has warned against a re-run of last year's Test against South Africa in Kandy where the tourists won by seven runs.

"We have reminded the players at team meetings of that agonising turn of events," Jayasuriya said. "They are aware of it".

There are nine survivors from that team who are likely to play on Wednesday, the exceptions being the now-retired Arjuna Ranatunga and Upul Chandana who has a broken finger.

Muralitharan was overshadowed in the first Test against England by Jayasuriya, who took eight wickets in the match with his left-arm spin.

Jayasuriya came into the Galle Test with 37 wickets at 42.05 and left it with 45 at 36.67.

"I think I bowled well in Galle. My performance there will encourage me to bowl more in Tests," said Jayasuriya.

Prior to this performance Jayasuriya had been a rather reluctant bowler at Test level.

"It always happens that when you are the captain you tend to under bowl yourself," said Jayasuriya.

"You try to get the opposition out by using other bowlers. That is what happened. I think there are better bowlers than me and I try to bowl them. That always happens with every captain," he said.

The only worry for Sri Lanka is the injury to middle-order batsman Russel Arnold.

The left-hander split the webbing between his third and small finger while fielding at practice in Colombo three days ago, and had three stitches inserted.

Arnold is expected to undergo a fitness test on Wednesday morning and if he fails it all-rounder Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, who is still a schoolboy, is expected to make his Test debut.

Despite taking only a solitary wicket, Kumar Dharmasena is expected to retain his place at least for this Test.

Left-arm fast bowler Nuwan Zoysa who missed the Galle Test because of a bout of 'flu is fit and will replace young Dilhara Fernando.

The batting line up remains the same with Tillekeratne Dilshan retaining his position at number seven.

Police have been armed with blankets to cover would-be streakers in this Buddhist temple town.

Sri Lanka (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (cap), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold,
Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, Nuwan Zoysa, Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, Dilhara

England (from): Nasser Hussain (cap), Michael Atherton, Marcus Trescothick, Graham Thorpe, Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, Michael
Vaughan, Craig White, Andy Caddick, Ashley Giles, Robert Croft, Darren Gough.
Umpires: Bulathsinghalage Cooray (Sri) and Rudi Koertzen (Rsa), TV umpire: Peter Manuel (Sri), Match Referee: Hanumant Singh (Ind).

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