Nathan Astle: Murali game plan is key

If the Black Caps can set up a solid game plan against Muttiah Muralitharan tonight then they'll go a long way to beating Sri Lanka.

Spinners have played a huge part in the World Cup so far and tonight the Black Caps come against the world's best.

Facing Murali never gets easy, especially on his home track. He's a handful on most grounds around the world but on a subcontinent pitch he's just that much harder to face.

The guys will obviously see him as a major threat tonight and treat him with that respect going into the game.

As a batsman you've just to make sure you have got a well sorted out game plan when you face him and bat with confidence.

If you do that you should play him reasonably comfortably.

The downside of having a classy player like Murali, as well as Lasith Malinga, is that you tend to rely on them too much. Which is a downside of this Sri Lankan side. If Murali and Malinga have a bad day then the Black Caps should get a decent total.

The same goes for the Sri Lankan batting lineup with too much reliance on Dilshan, Sangakkara and Samaraweera.

It's no surprise that spin bowlers have picked up a decent number of wickets in the tournament so far. It's always tough in India or any of the other subcontinent countries facing spin bowlers as a batsman has to make their own pace.

However it has been surprising to see some spinners being brought on much earlier than normal in an innings.

I cannot recall opening the batting and actually coming up against a spinner ever in my career.

There is nothing wrong with trying to change the odd thing but the new ball does tend to slide on when a spinner bowls. So I think the batsmen can still be reasonable attacking.

Despite the fact Sri Lanka eliminated the Black Caps at the semifinal stage four years ago there will be no revenge factor. This is a completely new tournament.

You have to look past that, if you do there is no point turning up on the day.

- NZ Herald

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