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Cricket umpires fell for "English bluff": report

COLOMBO, March 13 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan faired below par in the first two Tests against England because umpires were apparently taken in by an "English bluff", a state-run daily claimed Tuesday.

Muralitharan took 12 wickets in the first and the second Tests with a high strike rate of 93.5 balls per wicket, compared with a career average of 62.3 balls a wicket in his 303 Test wickets, the Daily News said.

"Where the umpires are erring is that they are being bluffed by the English batsmen who pretend to play a shot by striking out their pads and putting the bat behind it giving the impression that they are playing a shot.

"There have been some deliveries in line with the stumps which the umpires are not giving out ... When the batsmen try to hit him and they miss, they get bowled, but when the ball hits the pad they are not given out lbw," the paper said.

For a bowler who was the focal point of Sri Lanka's attack, Muralitharan has been suddenly left with an ordinary striking rate, it said in an article headlineed "Umpires fall to English bluff and criticism."

The newspaper also slammed International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Hanumant Singh of India for allegedly going out of his way to "be courteous to the English."

Singh on Friday handed down a two Test and two one-day match bans and a 60 percent fine of match fees on Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya for showing dissent when he was given out for a bump catch by Graham Thorpe in the gully off Andy Caddick for nought in the second innings.

The Daily News said the referee figured so prominently during the series that he had issued enough statements to publish a book.

"It will be pertinent to ask the question here whether the umpires have been swayed in their decision making by what is written and said by the English scribes and commentators on tour," the Daily News said.

The English had complained bitterly about poor umpiring when they lost the first Test to Sri Lanka by an innings and 28 runs, but when England won the second Test by three wickets, it was Sri Lanka's turn to gripe.

Both skippers, Jayasuriya and Nasser Hussain, have spoken of poor umpiring and said something must be done to salvage the reputation of the game as the two teams go for their third and final Test here Thursday.

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